This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
VISION STATEMENT OF MISCELLANEOUS PRODUCTIONS SOCIETY
The purposes of the Society are: a) to educate and increase the public’s understanding and appreciation of the arts while providing performances of an artistic nature, b) to educate the public and professionals about prevention of and responses to societal problems through various artistic works. The activities of MISCELLANEOUS Productions are: 1) to explore interdisciplinary art and new artistic practices in urban, suburban and rural contexts, 2) to make art that deals with current, relevant and engaging issues from an inclusive and anti-discriminatory perspective pertaining to all ages and cultural backgrounds, 3) to perform and produce artistic works for the public which encompass 1. and 2. as listed above, 4) to pioneer innovative approaches to community development using various art forms that will be presented to the public, 5) to educate using various art forms such as visual art, performance, new media, video, music and film while promoting cultural diversity. MISCELLANEOUS Productions #309 – 1016 East 8th Avenue, Vancouver, BC, Canada V5T 1T9 Phone: 604-873-6522 Fax: 604-873-2909 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web Site: www.miscellaneous-inc.org WARNING: The Board and staff of MISCELLANEOUS Productions believe in freedom of expression. This publication contains coarse language, passionate political perspectives, representations of violence and may not be suitable for children 12 years old and under. Board of Directors: Rebecca Bishop, Amy Gilbert and J. M. Hildebrand Artistic Director: Elaine Carol Artistic Producer: Jules Rochielle General Manager: Allyson McGrane Special Funding for MISCELLANEOUS Magazine was made possible by a grant from: British Columbia Anti-racism & Multiculturalism Program/BC Ministry of Community, Aboriginal & Women’s Services. Thank you to all those at the Ministry who inspired us to initiate and implement this special project. Funding was also provided by the BC Gaming Commission and Multicultural and Human Rights Programs of the Department of Canadian Heritage. Sponsors: Gateway Theatre and City of Richmond through the Richmond Arts Centre / Cultural Centre. Community Partners: Richmond Intercultural Committee and Helen Moore, Youth Librarian, Richmond Public Library. Our Fabulous Donors – who have helped us to realize this special project: D. Gerry Hildebrand, Lorie Thomas, Karen Dunfee, Sheila Johnston, Walter Bishop, Estelle Cormier, Nathan Gilbert, J. M. Hildebrand, Rebecca Bishop, Melissa Davis, Sally Rogow, Elaine Carol, Jules Rochielle, Brenda Joy Lem, Masako & Masashi Matsushita, Fern Vineberg-Karpman, Mary Hildebrand, Laurie E. Newell, Bonnie Winston and Aerlyn Weissman. Contributors: Elaine Carol, Jules Rochielle, Eric D. Wong, Catherine Chiu, Theoden Remigio, Adam Dunfee, Namrita Hayer, Kaoru Matsushita, Dan Isaac, Iva Lam, Rebekka Sørensen, Jennifer Kongpreecha, Shayne Reilly, Alexandra Billingham-Tessier, Bryan Krahn, Louise Tam, Cristina Yao, Cassandra “Ndidi Cascade” Onyejikwe, jamie griffiths and Daniel Collins. Designer: Corporate Graphics Editor: Rita Wong Please fill out the enclosed survey and snail mail or fax it back to: MISCELLANEOUS Productions #309 – 1016 East 8th Avenue, Vancouver, BC, V5T 1T9 Fax: 604-873-2909 We welcome any comments about our organization or the publication that you wish to express. Please e-mail us at < email@example.com >. All donations are welcome – please make your cheque payable to MISCELLANEOUS Productions Society and send it to the address above. MISCELLANEOUS Productions is the Young Associate Company of the Gateway Theatre, and a member of the Alliance for Arts & Culture, Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards Society and Popstart Interdisciplinary Art Web Site < www.popstart.ca >.
© MISCELLANEOUS Productions 2004
Table of Contents
Invisible, Ndidi Cascade . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 Working Miscellaneous-ly, Catherine Chiu . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
My Journey Through the Process of Developing a Performance, Adam Dunfee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4 A Chance for A Young South Asian Performer, Namrita Hayer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5 What I Carry with Me, Theoden Remigio . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
A Willingness to Share, Dan Isaac and Iva Lam Interviewed by Elaine Carol and Jules Rochielle . . . . . . . . .7 Unpacking Our Cultural Bag at MISCELLANEOUS Productions, Eric Wong . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11 MISCELLANEOUS Productions’ Video Component with Community, Jules Rochielle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13 Performance and Community: MISCELLANEOUS Productions’ Approach to Live Art as a Critical Component of Social Change, Elaine Carol . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17 - Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17
- Process of Creation and Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23 - Production Phase . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .44 - Performance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .46 Afterword, Rita Wong . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .48
M I S C E L L A N E O U S
M A G A Z I N E
This is how the story goes, Where did all the glory go? Many lives remain untold. Struggle in a foreign space Visibly become erased Rugged is the path they face. Cornered by the bigotry Try and find some symmetry Running out of energy Can you see me? Can you hear my voice? I’m invisible to the microscope When you’re all alone, and you’re far from home and there’s no consoling No control When I saw the article Noted it was very small Another beating at the mall. Cuz the colour of his skin Kicked him till his head caved in Beaten cuz of melanin And we just can’t win…we need love to begin! Can you see me? Can you hear my voice? I’m invisible to the microscope When your all alone, and your far from home and there’s no consoling No control Overlooked and overworked Underrated was his worth Sweat protruded from his shirt Never got a second chance Skin was rubbing off his hands Never would they understand Why?
Why can’t we share the sky? Tell me why? It’s just you and I? Tell me why? Can’t they share the sky? Tell me why, tell me why, tell me why? Can you see me? Can you hear my voice? I’m invisible to the microscope When you’re all alone, and you’re far from home and there’s no consoling No control (repeat)
Composed/Written by Cassandra “Ndidi Cascade” Onyejikwe © Onyejikwe 2003. Originally commissioned for MISCELLANEOUS Productions’ performance “What You Carry With You…” and first performed at the Gateway Theatre in Richmond, British Columbia in September 2003. Hip hop emcee, positive lyricist & youth workshop facilitator, Ndidi Cascade has shared the stage with greats such as Femi Kuti. She has toured across Canada and currently has a music video called End The Silence in rotation on Much Music.
earning about all aspects of theatre from actually partaking in a production of a performance from the ground up is much more comprehensive than any other learning program. This is exactly what I experienced in my two productions with Elaine and Jules. Being part of the casts of Outcasts and Angels and What You Carry With You…was more than just being an actor on stage. From the very beginning, even in auditions, the whole process was focused around team effort. Everyone was consulted, and everyone contributed to all aspects of a production. Be it script writing or choreography, everyone drew upon their strengths to bring something into the group work. Because everyone was involved in the production of a performance from the very start, I was able to see how a play grew from the first tentative scene to the final polished show. Instead of being thrown into a play for mere weeks, by the time we finished building the play together, it really felt like something that we had created, something much more substantial than words being said out loud. Some may say working with people of different races and ages is challenging, but to me, it was more rewarding than anything else. Spending time with such a diverse group of people opened my eyes to more than just cultural or age issues. People who seemed ordinary suddenly shone with a special talent or mannerism, some knowledge they possessed or some personality quirk. I’ve made and kept friendships with people I normally would have no access to, no reason to know. These
projects brought us together, whatever our backgrounds. There is something in theatre that brought us to one another. Theatre was also the vehicle that allowed all of us involved to talk about issues of discrimination. The projects enabled the actors to bring their different perspectives and ideas of what racism or homophobia mean to each one of us. We learned about how hate crimes are perpetrated, the possible reasons of the perpetrators, and how victims, families and communities deal with such experiences. It opened everyone’s eyes to what discrimination truly is, and the horrible effects it has on people. Most of all, I think we all learned how everyone, each of us, has to play a part in countering such violence. Be our role large or small, finding a way to fight discrimination is equally important. The skills I’ve learned from working with MISCELLANEOUS Productions number more than I can count: directing, writing, lighting, group management, rehearsing methods, physical and vocal warm-ups, relaxation techniques, scene activities…. However you look at it, that’s more than your usual repertoire of skills learned in theatre class. Then again, those performances were more than just your usual performance.
After performing in MISCELLANEOUS Productions’ Outcasts & Angels and What You Carry With You…, Catherine Chiu has developed an interest for working with victims of discrimination. She is currently enrolled at the University of British Columbia.
M I S C E L L A N E O U S
M A G A Z I N E
THE REENA PROJECT/Outcasts & Angels Photo: Daniel Collins Performers left to right: Namrita Hayer and Alexandra Billingham-Tessier
My Journey Through the Process of Developing a Performance
hen I saw the ad nestled in the Province three years ago, I thought nothing of it. I was asked if I wanted to audition. I agreed, really only to avoid an argument over the fact, but it turned into one of the greatest things I could’ve done. I had always acted, however, never seriously, and working with two professionals right off the bat was great experience. This was no ordinary undertaking. Usually at the start of a production you are given a script and then learn your lines–well, not here. Part of the whole experience was developing the script. The subject matter was bullying, and for us, teenagers who live with that scenario, it was a vehicle to make what happens known and to give the story credibility. We know and see the occurrences of bullying. Another aspect that set this play apart was the way in which it was to be presented: the audience was to follow the actors around.
This made for some interesting ad libs and scenarios (like waiting for a bus in which our scene was to take place) that made it an adventure for all involved. But as younger actors, we found this was the ultimate experience. Besides just acting, we were learning the aspects of writing which an actor needs to be strong in. The second production, What You Carry With You…, once again allowed us to develop a script, this time about racism endured by immigrants and the discrimination which exists specifically in Richmond. This was a very eye-opening experience because it showed me the amount of racism and discrimination towards different groups in our community, and the deep effect even one little comment or action can have on a person. The project was unique because it had youth and seniors working together. These two productions have been an honor to work on and much fun. From the great people who directed us, to our great and fun technical and stage crew, it has been a wonderful experience for a young actor like myself. Learning from people in the theatre who have been doing this most of their lives and are willing to share that knowledge has been only beneficial, and I look forward to participating in more MISCELLANEOUS Productions projects in the future.
Adam Dunfee has participated in two MISCELLANEOUS Productions performances. He is an avid hockey fan as well as a goal-tender in the Richmond Minor Hockey League.
We know and see the occurrences of bullying.
THE REENA PROJECT/Outcasts & Angels Photo: Daniel Collins Performer: Danielle Ow
A Chance for A Young South Asian Performer
As an 18-year-old Indo-Canadian girl, I would like to say that they have put strength and confidence in me, helping to change my community. Many people who had the opportunity to watch Outcasts and Angels as well as What You Carry With You... have said they were “taken away by the performance and the strong message against racism and violence in all communities.” I am very lucky to have the chance to work with Elaine, Jules, and the rest of the cast and crew from both productions, and am looking forward to see what else we can create in the future.
Namrita Hayer is 18 years old. She has been working with MISCELLANEOUS Productions since 2001 as a performer in Outcasts & Angels and What You Carry With You….
n the last few years, I have been very privileged to work with MISCELLANEOUS Productions. I have learned a lot about theatre and through this learning, I have realized how it can touch people and how much knowledge it can provide to those who seek it. It has been an honour to work with amazing talents such as Elaine Carol and Jules Rochielle. They have not only taught me but my fellow peers and cast members about the power of art and letting your voices be heard.
What You Carry With You… Photo: jamie griffiths Performers left to right: Catherine Chiu, Adiam Bhrane, Dan Isaacs, Louise Tam, Theoden Remigio, Kaoru Matsushita, Jane Kinegal, Shayne Reilly and Jessica Phillips
THE REENA PROJECT/Outcasts & Angels Costume Design: Rebekka Sørensen
M I S C E L L A N E O U S
M A G A Z I N E
What I Carry with Me
s an actor, I found that What You Carry With You… really did a good job of confirming to me that professional acting is no joke! Not that I didn’t expect it to be hard work…but then it could still be brutal, especially when you’re rehearsing after stamina and concentration have already been spent elsewhere, specifically in school... The whole process took about a year (which is a long time for anyone!) starting from a bare-bones outline but on the BIG upside we were pretty much free to be as creative as we pleased with the ideas we thought up.
matter that I’ve only dealt with milder forms of racism. It could’ve been anyone, and we’re responsible for doing her justice. Trying to describe the whole What You Carry With You… experience in a single paragraph is tough…but if I were to sum it up in a single word, I’d settle for nothing short of “incredible.” It was incredible to see such a diverse group of people working towards a philanthropic goal and to witness the evolution of the play from a somewhat chaotic mix of improvised scenes to its final polished form. I liked the way the workshops helped add depth to characterization and how rehearsals were directed at building focus and teamwork. I’m a strong believer in a close-knit cast. Developing really good working relationships with each other enabled us to make the production enjoyable. Sure, there were the occasional outbursts of frustration and episodes of moodiness, but we have to keep in mind that honesty only serves the purpose better. I guess the whole “becoming-close-to-each-other” approach sometimes backfired in that we never really stopped talking (especially us high school students), even to the point of being rude. That is definitely something we have to work on… At the end of it all, I’d say it definitely was worth all that hard work just to be able to touch people and move them in a positive way. I’d involve myself with more of these productions had I only the time…
Currently attending university, Theoden Remigio was born in the Philippines and immigrated from Thailand to Canada in 2000. He performed the youth / adult role of Broca and Mr. Santos in What You Carry With You….
What You Carry With You… Photo: jamie griffiths Performers left to right: Alvin Ram and Theoden Remigio
It wasn’t all anarchy as a result of this freedom—we obviously still had a schedule to follow and deadlines to meet. The whole point was to build a production centered on realistic characters to whom the audience could relate, and ultimately to render a performance that was true to the society we lived in. This was one of the biggest reasons why I was attracted to audition in the first place. It was the prospect of exploring and learning to understand the reality behind the façade of our “multicultural society” and dealing with issues close to immigrant youth such as myself. The focus groups really opened my eyes. I discovered that intermittent cases of overt racism are still a problem even though our society has already “come so far”. Perhaps one of the most potent examples backing this would be the case of Reena Virk. Her murder was evidently motivated by race, and yet the media almost seemed to justify the actions of her killers by stressing that she was “different” and “overweight”. For me, her story really struck close to home. It doesn’t
A Willingness to Share: Dan Isaac and Iva Lam Interviewed
Elaine Carol and Jules Rochielle
Elaine: What was it like to be cast in What You Carry With You…? How did you feel about the process? Iva: I got very excited after I was called back for the second audition! (laughs) As I have told the whole group during early rehearsals, I was living in a very small social circle. Most of my friends were Chinese, and I’m with Chinese people all the time. This was a chance for me to work with so many people from different nations and cultures. It was really interesting to understand the cultures of other nations. I wanted to learn how to get along with all these different people. It was the first time I met a Filipino guy, an Indian woman, an African girl. Everyone got along very well, and everyone was really kind. There are some friends you just see once or twice a month, or once or twice a year. Here we were meeting twice or more every week over a long period of time. Dan: So you build up a relationship, and it may be superficial for a while. Then, whether you like it or not, you have the same experience and are bound to make connections to one another. What impressed me the most during those early discussions and the process of building our community and the performance, was that there was an immediate openness within the group. You hit a chord right away with our cast. There were so many stories, and people were willing to share. We were basically strangers to one another, and when we started telling our stories of immigration, about our life and exactly what we experienced, we were willing to share. There was no B.S. about it. It really came from the heart. The process impressed me as a teacher – this willingness to share. What we were wondering was: where is this going to lead to? It was really interesting how you kept us in the dark for a while. It actually kept us going – that you wouldn’t tell us! The kids kept asking you, “where is the outline?” And some of the youth said, “you did the same thing last time (during early rehearsals of Outcasts & Angels).” I don’t know what your intent was, but you managed to keep us comfortable. We just kept telling our stories and you kept collecting them. Later, we saw in the production of What You Carry With You… that some of these stories were highlighted and given emphasis. So we built the script through these stories, but we didn’t see this in the first few months of the process. It was a good experience, and the openness of the group was a surprise to me. Iva: The stories helped us to understand each other. Knowing other people’s backgrounds helped us to get along with each other. We used my story of how the Tiananmen Square massacre affected my family’s immigration. That’s why we came to Canada in 1989, right after the massacre, because we were really afraid. A lot of people immigrated to Canada because of
M I S C E L L A N E O U S
M A G A Z I N E
what happened in Tiananmen Square. Living in Hong Kong, we understand the Chinese Communists very well. By 1997, we were all very worried–I still have family there. Now the Chinese government is not letting these things happen anymore because they know the whole world is watching them. Since I’ve been in Canada, I always hope that nothing bad will happen to Hong Kong or China. The people who immigrated here want to have a peaceful life in Canada, but it’s really disappointing that they have found violence and racism here. It’s not as good as they expected it to be. You don’t expect home invasions to happen. Dan: That’s why your play was so interesting. You did a fantastic job with the home invasion scene, and the scene with Iva that followed (in which her character’s memories of the Tiananmen Square massacre were triggered by witnessing her sister and brother-in-law being attacked by four youth during a home invasion). That was brave because Iva’s reaction really characterized her feelings of disappointment. Elaine: Do you believe that there is more violence and racism since you immigrated to Canada? Iva: Yes, I think it’s worse. When I first researched Canada before we immigrated, the impression was very good because Canadians were supposed to be very kind, gentle, polite. In Toronto, people stopped their cars to let us cross the street! It seemed like a peaceful city. Now that I have lived in the Lower Mainland for 14 years, I see that has changed a lot. People are not as kind to you, thinking that you are taking their job opportunities. Also, the real estate prices go up with the influx of immigrants, and they just don’t like it.
Dan: They blame the Chinese Canadians, in Richmond especially, for bringing up the prices of real estate. Elaine: When it really is the white Western developers. Dan: We’ve always had racism. Now I’m teaching Grade 10 Canadian History and Political Science, and I’m really surprised. Even in the 1850s, the racism of the French Canadians against the Irish immigrants…. There’s a change though, and this is my experience from working on What You Carry With You…. Now the new immigrant youth that come over say they are “brown” with a sense of pride whereas before it was a derogatory remark. People used to be less forthcoming about their race if they were not Canadian born. Now it’s in your face – people of African descent say with pride, “I am a Black person.” I see it at the school that I teach in. Students used to be told to speak English and they would obey right away. Now if they are told to speak English, they say, “forget it, I’m going to speak my language.” There’s a big change going on at this point. People who have been put down because of race, language, gender and sexuality, now say, “we are what we are!” It’s an interesting phenomenon, and you can see the clash of the people who say, “you can’t do that.” Before, immigrants would just say, “okay,” and bow their heads, but now, like the Aboriginal people who were forced into residential schools, they don’t accept it anymore. The Asians were really discriminated against with the Head Tax and the Komagata Maru. That hint of racism is definitely still there, but it’s the way we are responding that is changing. Then, there is the internalized racism we explored in the scene I did with Theoden Remigio. If we can use What You Carry With You… to tell these
We used my story of how the Tiananmen Square massacre affected my family’s immigration. That’s why we came to Canada in 1989, right after the massacre, because we were really afraid.
What You Carry With You… Photo: jamie griffiths Performers left to right: Iva Lam and Catherine Chui
What You Carry With You… Photo: jamie griffiths Performers left to right: Dan Isaac and Theoden Remigio
“...racism is definitely still there, but it’s the way we are responding that is changing.”
stories, then maybe the audience members will be more respectful and aware of other cultures. This is what I learned as a cast member from working on this play.
Iva Lam immigrated to Vancouver in 1989. In What You Carry With You…, she played two roles: on video, she appeared as Shuk-fong, the mother of Jade living in Hong Kong, and live as Mary, the sister of Shuk-fong.
Dan Isaac immigrated to Canada from the Philippines in 1975. He performed the adult roles of Mr. Santos and Henry as well as the role reversal of the teen student, Broca, in What You Carry With You….
1 0 |
Unpacking Our Cultural Bag at MISCELLANEOUS Productions
THE REENA PROJECT/ Outcasts & Angels Photo: Daniel Collins Performers left to right – top row: Lecayle Hubert, Adam Dunfee, Kaoru Matsushita, Namrita Hayer, Shayne Reilly, Alexandra BillinghamTessier, Bryan Krahn, Emina Skrijelj bottom row: Catherine Chui and Jessica Phillips
ur cultural bag contains the chemistry, the experiences, the learning that influences and creates who we are. Unlike the traveling suitcase sitting in our closet awaiting our next outof-town trip, we carry our cultural bag wherever we go, at all times. This collection of personal attributes, our “Diversity DNA”, includes elements that define who we are. These elements–such as our abilities and disabilities, age, communication style, ethnicity, family status, financial background, gender, language, racial identity, religion and sexual orientation–cut and shape the lens through which we see
and interpret our world. My work is designed to help people unpack their cultural bag and to identify their “Diversity DNA” in order to attain a better understanding of their beliefs and values, the source of their traditions and customs and the rationale behind their thinking and behavior. What is MISCELLANEOUS Productions all about and what was my role as a Diversity Consultant? My introduction to MISCELLANEOUS Productions occurred in 2001 with an invitation to present a diversity workshop for the creative team and production crew for Outcasts and Angels. A
number of board members were also in attendance at the workshop. In my preparation for this workshop, I learned much about the organization. My first impression was immediately challenged, in that MISCELLANEOUS Productions was not strictly a theatre group, though its work has received positive critical reviews. It was not advertised as an educational organization targeted to youth, but youth seemed naturally drawn to the work of the company. It was not a community development organization though community development is what happens when MISCELLANEOUS Productions comes to town. From the start, I could see that the company was fully committed to the concept of diversity. The backgrounds of the board members, production crew, administration and performing cast clearly reflected both in a visible and invisible way, the diverse community of British Columbia. This was not a happenstance occurrence but was a systematic and deliberate move to “walk the talk” about diversity.
embracing diversity and respecting collaboration. When deadlines loomed near and personalities were put on edge, how tempting it must have been at times to abandon the collaborative diversity route and embrace a more traditional approach to theatre making. As the company began work on its newest venture, I again was invited to participate in the production of What You Carry With You... Similar to the process used in Outcasts and Angels, a collaborative framework was utilized to fill in the story outline developed by MISCELLANEOUS Productions. The diversity workshops with cast members were, for the most part, opportunities for people to unpack, deconstruct, reflect and repack their cultural bags. From this work people gained insight to the traditions and values that impact their lives, often in invisible but powerful ways. At the end, the process was successful in uncovering rich personal stories and experiences, providing depth and realism to the project. I am very grateful for the opportunity to provide assistance to these two very rewarding projects. Like all who have been associated with Outcasts and Angels and What You Carry With You..., I have learned and grown from the experience.
Eric D. Wong is currently self-employed as a diversity consultant and has worked for an impressive variety of organizations. Eric is a single parent whose passion for his work is exceeded only by his love for his family and his dream of playing second base for the Chicago Cubs.
Our discussions about diversity and anti-racism were always respectful but challenging, as there was always apparent the desire to stretch the envelope to test the company’s dedication and ability to welcome and value differences.
It is not easy to run a program where the development of scripts and story lines, and the direction of acting and creation of scenes, run parallel with the process of
1 2 |
MISCELLANEOUS Productions’ Video Component with Community
he youth involved in the video production and editing of THE REENA PROJECT had varied or no previous skills in film, video or editing. Many of the youth who did not make it through the final stages of the casting process found a home on our Video Crew. This team worked well for many of the youth who came to the project because they had more flexibility to drop in and out of the group depending on the time they had to dedicate to this project. A lesser time commitment was offered as a method for youth to stay connected to MISCELLANEOUS Productions but it also meant that this group had less time to build a dialogue to deconstruct important issues like, racism, classism, heterosexism and other forms of discrimination that have had an impact on teens in Richmond. This group of youth had less exposure to an anti-racist, pro-diversity dialogue because The Video Crew offered a “low- key” way for young participants to become actively engaged in this aspect of the creative process.
documentary video of the evolution of THE REENA PROJECT. This aspect of the project was both rewarding and challenging. We are a small, non-profit organization with limited access to equipment. We had very little funding for video and documentation of this project, so the overall production quality of this video was low. However, the content and process of making this video were very important. We had access to two donated, second-hand high-8 cameras for the duration of the entire project. We have built a solid team of youth who keep coming back to work with us, and they stay inspired and creatively engaged. This was a success and a huge aspect of our community-building artistic process and practice. Keeping the youth connected to MISCELLANEOUS Productions seems to be more rewarding than anything else. The Video Crew documented rehearsals, their own involvement, and our taiko drumming workshops. Some of the youth even took cameras home to experiment and make their videos. Our primary objective was to collect enough footage to be able to create a low-budget documentary about the creative process and final outcome of all our work together. By the end of the project we had taped hours of footage and some of the youth became involved in selecting scenes they wanted to see in the video. Due to time constraints and budget restrictions, I edited
Most youth in the cast had developed a deeper understanding of the diversity issues because they had more time to process, learn and build a dialogue.
Our overall goal was to make a low-budget
all material together to create a history of what the creative process looked like from focus groups to performance. This was a complicated project to edit into a 20-minute documentary. The video does tell the story of the development of the project. All the youth involved in this aspect of the project received credit for their work on the video. Our video was publicly screened at our Annual General Meeting, and we use it in promotional and education packages. We accomplished our overall goal by telling a story of how the youth worked together, developed and collaborated to create THE REENA PROJECT. The way we used video on What You Carry With You… was new for our Video Crew and cast. As a stage element, the video created an interactive dialogue between actor and video content. Essentially the actor on stage was speaking to, responding to, and interacting with a large scale video projection of the other actor. I was really excited because one youth in particular came back to work with MISCELLANEOUS Productions even though he was attending a popular film school. I had thought that we would lose him because of our limited access to equipment and technology. I realized that this youth had the potential to become a vital member of our creative team. Two new youth also became involved as members of our Video Crew for What You Carry With You… Luckily, our production assistant and our youth Video Crew leader were both enrolled in art programs that provided an overnight checkout, basically helping us to gain access to several pieces of equipment that improved the overall production quality of our final video.
As a stage element, the video created an interactive dialogue between actor and video content.
We used the video to create an interactive dialogue between actor and video.
What You Carry With You… Photo: jamie griffiths Performer: Alexandra Billingham-Tessier
1 4 |
What You Carry With You… Photo: jamie griffiths Performer: Marilyn Billingham
Essentially, our job as a team was to work with the cast of the play and to tape the scenes that they had been working on for the video portion of the project. We taped this material during three different shoots and gained experience in working with live action and actors. The cast members had varied levels of comfort around the lighting equipment and cameras. Some members of the cast were nervous and required additional time and mini-dv tape to get through their scenes. As a team, we edited the videos for this project on a couple different home-based computers. As an editing team we came together to build and edit each video segment. These “home-based low-budget” approaches to video-making enabled us to produce and accomplish our creative goals. Trevor Tablotney, a talented, repeat member of our Video Crew, received an honorarium for his exceptional leadership on the project. We also plan to hire him to work as a part of our professional production team in the future. As video editors, we worked closely with our cast members to produce a video that they would feel comfortable with. Due to the multi-lingual nature of the play, these videos also required subtitling. As English speaking editors, we frequently checked in with the cast to make sure that our translation matched the scripted dialogue in each scene. While we were editing, the cast was rehearsing without video and trying to become accustomed to how video would be used on stage. After we completed a rough edit, the cast began rehearsing the video segments on a small TV screen. This made our work even more collaborative because we
We accomplished our overall goal by telling a story of how the youth worked together, developed and collaborated to create THE REENA PROJECT.
M I S C E L L A N E O U S
M A G A Z I N E
had to actively become involved in assisting the actor to develop and adjust the timing of the dialogue. In the actual performance, the final cuts of our video sequences were projected on to a large screen hung on stage. This effect created an innovative and fresh look for the theatre. As in THE REENA PROJECT, we noticed a different level of sensitivity between the two groups of community members involved in the project. Those youth and elders who had more time and exposure to an anti-racist, pro-diversity dialogue seemed to be more sensitive and respectful toward one another when working together because they had more time to build a better awareness of the issues. The Video Crew was originally created to engage community in a different way, offering a lesser time commitment as a viable option and a method for participants to stay connected to the rest of the cast and to the creative process. The most important element for the Video Crew was the exposure to the whole notion of building a dialogue about diversity. As an artist, an inter-sexed person, and an openly gay individual, I find that building a dialogue around issues of diversity has become the most important aspect of my creative work within a community context. MISCELLANEOUS Productions sees art and the creative process as a vehicle to engage the community in a discussion about social issues. Human beings have always used art to mirror and express our social, cultural, personal and spiritual realities. Our journey with community was about finding a multiplicity of unique and beautiful voices.
Art and art-making should be given back to the community as a gift to help restore balance, spirit and justice.
THE TRANSITION FROM CREATION TO PRODUCTION
One of the biggest challenges on both projects occurred during the transition from the creative process to production mode. In short, I would define the creative process as a non-linear, left-brain, collaborative way of working together while the process of production becomes very linear and time sensitive. The change of pace from creation to production was new for many. As the workload and level of expectation increased, the community participants found it challenging to get used to the pace of production and the demands of preparing for a performance. Part of the challenge was due to the fact that we as organizers were a nonunionized/pro-union, community-based, non-profit, pro-diversity company working in a unionized theatre. With this awareness, we, as facilitators, tried to bridge this gap through continuous dialogue with our Stage Manager, the cast and crew, the Video Crew and the unionized technicians. We are currently trying to come up with proactive solutions to make this transition and shift in realities easier on ourselves, our community participants, and the contractors we work with.
Jules Rochielle is the Artistic Producer for MISCELLANEOUS Productions. Jules was the Video, Set & Props Designer and Web Site Head for THE REENA PROJECT / Outcasts & Angels and What You Carry With You….
1 6 |
Performance and Community: MISCELLANEOUS Productions’ Approach to Live Art as a Critical Component of Social Change
We strive to collaborate with underrecognized and extremely talented artists/activists and community participants who are not afraid to make art that has relevance to a contemporary audience. We see our audience to be a reflection of ourselves as a company of highly trained artists who are considered to be “outside the mainstream system,” such as people of colour, Jews, mixed-race people, feminists, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, trans people, inter-sex people, political artists, experimental artists, former street youth and working-class / low-income women. Working with, representing and being considered “outcasts” is symbolic of how Artistic Team leaders of MISCELLANEOUS Productions challenge the elitism of the professional interdisciplinary performance art and theatre worlds of Vancouver or the “30-year clique.” Jules and I had emerged out of the artist-run centre movement in other, somewhat more receptive, cities. We are the proudly queer daughters of singleparent, low-income mothers, without money, connections, class privilege, upstarts in contrast to the gatekeepers of the 30-yearold Vancouver art and theatre elite. Embodying our anti-oppression theories through our everyday practices, we have significant experience working with
ccessibility and inclusivity are amongst the central reasons why MISCELLANEOUS Productions was created. As artists, queers, feminists and activists, not only did we experience the sting of racism, homophobia and xenophobia from our “peers,” but we also felt that there was no entry point into either the art world or front-line work with artistic young people in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. We address the inadequacies of the mainstream through our commitment to a unique model of mentorship, empowerment, continuing support and follow-up.
We have a vision of the exciting possibilities enabled by the intersection of antiviolence/anti-racism/antidiscriminatory education, community development and art-making. Hence, MISCELLANEOUS Productions was created to achieve this dream.
M I S C E L L A N E O U S
M A G A Z I N E
1 8 |
marginalized youth. I have more than 15 years of experience working front-line as a professional and volunteer with street youth, young offenders, sexually-exploited youth, psychiatric survivors of all ages, abused women and children, GLBTIQ1 youth, adult immigrants and refugees. In addition, I have been a professional artist for more than 35 years, and directed, choreographed, written and performed in more than 20 original, full-length, interdisciplinary performances and media works presented in professional contexts in Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, and Halifax.
Grace Eiko Thomson, Aerlyn Weissman, Suzanne Greening and exceptional others actively support MISCELLANEOUS Productions. We are bolstered by this support and determined to continue creating, producing, directing, encouraging those just like us, ensuring that the voices of GLBTIQ youth, youth of colour, youth and seniors, lowincome, under-recognized and outsider artists are heard, loud and proud.
Description of Our Projects
Since its inception in July 2000, MISCELLANEOUS Productions Society has produced major performance, video and book projects–THE REENA PROJECT and What You Carry With You…. We currently have two performance projects in development: e-race and FAG! THE REENA PROJECT (2001) was a series of interdisciplinary arts events made in memory of Reena Virk. This journey through the “phat side of teen life in Richmond” explored issues of bullying, racism, violence and discrimination featuring teens aged 13 to 19 mentored by professional artists. The roving, site-specific performance component–that took place on three yellow school buses, a misty baseball field and other locations, began and ended at the Gateway Theatre–was entitled Outcasts and Angels. As a component of this innovative project, we produced a 22-minute documentary video entitled The Making of THE REENA PROJECT / Outcasts and Angels (2003). Please see Jules Rochielle’s essay in this publication. What You Carry With You… (2003) explored the issues of immigration, racism, violence,
In July 2000, knowing that we are smart, diligent and resourceful, the founders of MISCELLANEOUS Productions decided to take action. We formed MISCELLANEOUS Productions and worked towards presenting our first work as a company: THE REENA PROJECT / Outcasts & Angels, which took almost five years from initial development to evaluation.
Though we have produced two major performance works, a low-to-no budget documentary video and two exhibitions in the past four years to great critical, popular, community and artistic acclaim, we are still living on the edge, still unacceptable, still battling the establishment art and theatre worlds. And yet, community and anti-racist activists across Canada consider us s/heroes. Visionary artists, curators and art presenters such as Simon Johnston, Douglas D. Durand,
What You Carry With You… Photo: jamie griffiths Performers left to right: Shayne Reilly and Jane Kinegal
1 Gay / Lesbian / Bisexual / Transgendered / Intersex and Questioning
M I S C E L L A N E O U S
M A G A Z I N E
aging and inter-generational relationships, memory and belonging. This performance, in English with sections in Cantonese, Malaysian Mandarin, Tagalog, Urdu, Punjabi, Eritrean, Japanese, Gaelic and French, was performed in Studio B of the Gateway Theatre. What You Carry With You… was created by a team of professional artists who mentored and collaborated with nonprofessional youth ranging in age from 14 to 21 and elders 52 to 70 years old from Richmond. Cast members claimed roots on six continents and collectively spoke more than 25 languages. A six-minute video of excerpts from the performance was produced in October 2003. MISCELLANEOUS Productions presented exhibitions of costumes, props, photographs and other artifacts from both performances in the Richmond Cultural Centre Rotunda in 2001 and 2003. e-race is a site-specific performance work to be presented by MISCELLANEOUS Productions in Richmond, BC, in September 2005. e-race will explore young people’s obsession with fast cars, speed, street-racing and amphetamine-based drugs such as crystal meth and ecstasy. e-race will also examine the erasure of race that many youth feel when cases of “speed” are discussed. We hope to produce a short video documentary about this performance. MISCELLANEOUS Productions is also planning a new performance–FAG!–to be presented in 2007. Working with a group of young people from the suburbs of the Lower Mainland, we will begin the process of developing this work by analyzing gay-bashings such as the murder of Aaron Webster in Stanley Park in November 2001.
In 1999, encouraged by Jules Rochielle, I proposed an art project I had been developing quietly since the death of 14-year-old Reena Virk in November 1997 to Jane Wheeler. Jane2 was the head of the City of Richmond Cultural Centre/Arts Centre at that time, and Jules was interning with her, learning how to navigate through civic and cultural Canadian politics. Through City of Richmond contacts, we met our other art angel, Simon Johnston, who was then the new Producer/General Manager of the Gateway Theatre. He enthusiastically picked up the project, and along with our other sponsors, Richmond Women’s Resource Centre and Rumble Productions, we began planning for THE REENA PROJECT. At the time, we were a loose collective of artists and found that we had to incorporate as a BC Society. If a group of artists and/or activists decide to go this route rather than the collective model, they must realize that they are adding thousands of hours a year to administering that society. On the other hand, as an incorporated society, a group is eligible to apply for further public funding, and as a registered charity, which MISCELLANEOUS Productions is, an organization can apply for private sector dollars. In the four years since we have been incorporated, we have raised more than $600,000 in grants, donations, in-kind space and services. This did not come easily as we had to work extremely hard to become amongst the best grant-writers in the province. We are experts at getting donations of space for focus groups, interviews, auditions, rehearsals, art exhibitions and performances.
2 Suzanne Greening has taken over Jane’s job since her retirement in 2001.
2 0 |
What You Carry With You… Photo: jamie griffiths Performers left to right: Rukhsana Sultan and Adiam Bhrane
In addition, we are skilled at maintaining relationships with our funders and notifying them of all Open Rehearsals, offering tickets to all events, inviting them to all launches, Annual General Meetings, and more. On the negative side, as individual artists/activists, we can barely make ends meet. Our projects require a long-term commitment and are enormous – up to 100 community members participate per performance work. In spite of years of lobbying, along with working 12 to 17 hour days, six days a week and producing two
major artistic, critical and popular / community successes with THE REENA PROJECT/ Outcasts & Angels (2001) and What You Carry With You… (2003), MISCELLANEOUS Productions has yet to receive an operating grant from any of our funders. To date, the Canada Council for the Arts has funded less than 4% of all of our projects. As I write this article, Jules and I are still living on poverty-line wages and working out of my kitchen and living room in a leaky East End Vancouver rental apartment trying
What You Carry With You… Artist: Kaoru Matsushita Illustration of her character: Yuki
to fulfill what sometimes feels like unrealistic expectations. Even with all the funds raised, there is no money for an office or even a half-time General Manager – Allyson McGrane works between 10 to 24 hours a month to help us manage the company. All of our professional contractors
make more per hour than we do. This means that in addition to working mega-hours to build our organization, we have to hold down part-time jobs. Creating and sustaining a company like MISCELLANEOUS Productions requires an extreme commitment and is only suited to those who have a pure, passionate
2 2 |
belief in the combination and intersection of community and art. Jules and I founded MISCELLANEOUS Productions along with community activists Rebecca Bishop, Jo Ann Chew and Yuki Matsuno, and we incorporated in July 2000. We created an arts organization that honours the following post-modern collage / anti-formula: Interdisciplinary Performance + Video + Art + Theatre + Community Activism + Anti-elitism + Anti-racism + Anti-homophobia + Anti-violence + Anti-censorship + Community Development + Celebration of Life = MISCELLANEOUS Productions.
The roots of our artistic projects always spring from the personal, political and passionate–we live according to our ideals and experiences, and we are witnesses to what happens around us. A particularly shocking event occurs that directly impacts on our lives–a moment in contemporary history crystallizes, seizes our imaginations, and we become obsessed with it. Often, members of the community will call us and say, “your group should do something about this issue. It’s killing our children!” That is when we are compelled to conceptualize an artistic project and begin our research phase. We read everything on the subject that we can get our hands on, including reports from grass-roots organizations, news reports, information from newspapers, journals, magazines, web sites and list serves, academic studies, and more.
PROCESS OF CREATION & DEVELOPMENT
The Research Phase of THE REENA PROJECT / Our Response to the Tragedy of Reena Virk
The City of Richmond is statistically the most racially diverse community in Canada with 59% of the population being first generation immigrants and people of colour. Yet, we found in our first feasibility study in 1999 – 2000, that youth have few opportunities for leadership roles in an artsrelated, pro-culture environment, especially one that deals with issues of relevance to their lives (such as racism, youth-phobia, crimes perpetrated by youth and against youth, sexism, classism, violence, substance abuse, sexual exploitation, ableism, homophobia and other forms of xenophobia). Youth told us they feel “shut out” of the arts and cultural organizations in the city and are not satisfied with the quality or limited access to arts instruction in their schools.
The idea for our first community art project as a company was named for Reena Virk. THE REENA PROJECT/ Outcasts and Angels responds to the November 14, 1997, mobbing, beating and murder of the Saanich 14-year-old, South Asian woman by a group of seven teenage girls and one boy. In developing the script, we considered other recent cases of violence perpetuated by girls against girls reported by the mainstream media, and we
M I S C E L L A N E O U S
M A G A Z I N E
also interviewed youth, their supporters, and parents during our Feasibility Study in March/April 2000, funded by the City of Richmond Arts Centre.
The day after Reena’s body was discovered in the Gorge Waterway, I decided that a powerful response must be made to this horrendous crime. I was further motivated when I found out the exact nature of her murder. Jules and I, as part of our research, attended some of the September 1999 trial of Kelly Ellard. In Saanich, BC in 1997, Reena Virk was lured under a bridge by a group of girls on an autumn night and severely beaten. One girl started the attack by putting out a cigarette on Reena’s forehead, where a bindi would go, clearly a symbolic act of racism as the victim was South Asian Canadian. It was a brutal, pre-meditated attack by a group of seven girls and one boy, aged 14 to 16 at the time. Up to 30 young people watched as this assault occurred. Subsequently, two young people who had attacked her, followed her, beat her again and drowned her in the Gorge Waterway. During the trials of both Warren Glowatski and Kelly Ellard, neither the media nor the judges mentioned that racism had played a role in Reena’s murder. In Reena’s case, the coroner said that a single girl could not have killed her. The final drowning had simply accelerated the deadly process. The initial beating from the group was so fatally severe that Reena would have died of multiple head wounds in the following half-hour as her brain, as a result, had swelled uncontrollably.
Six girls were convicted of assault charges for the first beating of Reena and subsequently, two teens, Ellard and Glowatski, were charged, tried in adult court and convicted with second-degree murder. Both received life sentences, with a chance of parole after serving five and seven years respectively. Not one of the teens has apologized to Reena’s family. In February 2003, the BC Court of Appeal overturned the conviction of Kelly Ellard. A new trial was set for Ellard in January 2004 and recently postponed – at the time of writing this article. The family of Reena Virk filed a civil lawsuit in February 2003, which they had begun to put together with their lawyer in November 2000, naming Ellard and Glowatski, the girls who beat Virk prior to her murder, plus their guardians as well as the BC Ministry of Children and Family in the case. Reena was in care at the time she was murdered. Suman Virk, Reena’s mother, told reporters that she wants “the killing to stay with them as a constant reminder.” Throughout the media coverage of the various trials of the youth who beat and murdered Reena, Mrs. Virk’s voice was solitary in mentioning racism in conjunction with the case. We felt an urgent need to raise our voices in support with the Virks in a way that was deeply engaged, meaningful, constructive, and community-building.
MISCELLANEOUS Productions begins every project with an open, inclusive and rigorous process of reaching out to members of the community and asking for honest feedback on the thematic nature of and issues brought up by our proposed art project. Our
2 4 |
We never hesitate to call anyone who is passionate to exchange ideas about the issues that inspire our community art projects.
What You Carry With You… Photo: jamie griffiths Performers left to right: Alvin Ram and Namrita Hayer
mission of using art to expand our vision of society compels us to be as inclusive as our resources will allow us. Because a strong belief of ours is to make art with and for the non-artist, these community members include a huge range of people such as students, youth outside of the mainstream system, academics, activists, community development workers, volunteer coordinators, librarians, criminal justice workers, mental health workers, community health nurses, executive directors of non-profit societies, artists, musicians, parents, teachers, tutors, counselors, religious leaders of various denominations3, youth workers, seniors workers, anti-racism/multicultural community development workers, coaches, athletic trainers, retired people and so many others. We never hesitate to call anyone who is passionate to exchange ideas about the issues that inspire our community art projects. That enthusiasm rubs off on our contacts, who often advise us to speak to another helpful person in the community. We always follow up. The moral support sometimes feels overwhelming and restores our faith in the power of community. We
frequently find that these efforts bring extraordinary participants to our auditions as well as many gifts and services in-kind from the community, such as assistance with publicity during our outreach campaigns and performances. What we often hear, however, is that some individuals conducting outreach to community groups may be reluctant to contact people outside of their own cultural group. Taking outreach as a central part of our work, we celebrate the opportunity to collaborate with people from a diversity of racial, cultural and class backgrounds. If there is a language barrier, we try to find someone in the community who is willing to translate for us. Outreach has assisted us in countless ways, helping us to form alliances with a very wide variety of groups and individuals. We experience a great deal of support from more than 90% of those we contact. Community workers, directors of arts organizations, parents, teachers, administrators, politicians, librarians, executive directors of grass-roots organizations, anti-racism activists, anti-
3 In Richmond, we contact various Sikh temples, Synagogues, Mosques, Buddhist temples, some churches, etc. Though we do not practice these religions, we have learned to have respect for those who do.
M I S C E L L A N E O U S
M A G A Z I N E
In all of our work, we feel one of the main goals is to deconstruct pervasive, abusive, racial and homophobic slurs. The youth we have interviewed tell us quite directly that our artistic response should unequivocally be one that is “in yer face.”
homophobia activists, health-care workers, and others are only too willing to assist us in reaching out to young people and spreading the word about our series of events. They write gracious letters of support about our group and pass us onto others who may be interested in our work. There is always a major “fax-around” to all of the drama, dance, media, photography and visual art secondary school teachers in the Richmond School District. We are especially interested in youth living outside the mainstream, those who feel like “outcasts” or “outsiders,” youth who feel bullied, youth who are bullies, youth who identify as artists and activists. In addition, we conduct a fairly thorough Chinese-language media and outreach campaign. During our English-language campaign, we hire Catherine Chiu, a brilliant young woman who has been featured in two of our performances as well as contributing to this journal. She has worked with members of her family and a community leader to translate our flyers and fax-arounds into Chinese characters. We ask her to mail them out to Chinese organizations, media outlets, cultural groups, and so on. It was through our Chinese outreach campaign that two particularly talented elder actors, Iva Lam and Louise Tam, came to us to work on What You Carry With You….4 We conduct our media campaigns for the auditioning process in the same model, in both English and Chinese.
Generating Excitement about our Artistic Projects
We have traveled throughout the Lower Mainland in order to inspire vibrant discussion about our art projects. Our outreach activities include the following: setting up a table with colorful banners in the Richmond Centre Mall during March break with prizes from the local CD store for youth who participate in our discussions; conducting dialogue circles and focus groups in youth centres, seniors centres and community centres; holding one-to-one interviews with “experts in the field”, academics, front-line workers, youth, seniors and others; and giving presentations to community groups, arts councils, intercultural committees, youth and seniors groups, etc. We conduct media campaigns on miniscule budgets and send public service announcements by e-mail, snail mail and fax to the mainstream, alternative and multicultural media; post broadsheets in youth centres, senior centres, community centres, pool halls; hand out flyers in the Richmond Skater Park; and go anywhere youth hang out in order to talk to them.
Youth and Issues of Access
Richmond youth who participated in our interviews and focus groups were “pumped” in terms of their enthusiasm for THE REENA PROJECT/Outcasts & Angels and What You Carry With You…. Richmond youth interviewed by members of the Artistic Team
4 According to the last census, Chinese Canadians make up more than 40% of the population of Richmond, BC.
2 6 |
complained that career preparation–traditional and non-traditional academic information in the area of arts and culture–was not available or accessible in their schools or local arts institutions. Teens of colour and low-income youth complained that the youth arts programs that were available in the Lower Mainland were overwhelmingly “white” and “expensive,” some costing more than $1,000 per part-time acting course, even with subsidies. At MISCELLANEOUS Productions, access to all of our performance and video programs is completely free of cost to any youth in Richmond. We were able to give gifts including new Fluevog shoes to performers in Outcasts & Angels. Crew members received coupons from the local CD store and What You Carry With You…, and community cast and major crew members received a significant cash honoraria. There continues to be wide-spread denial amongst many mainstream adults and community leaders in Richmond concerning the problems that exist in their community including: racism and its ties to violence, poverty, sexism, homophobia, ableism, addiction, and more. Yet, many of the teens we have talked to see these problems quite clearly. The white status quo in Richmond has yet to come to terms with the vast demographic changes and the existence of inter-cultural tensions that have developed. In all of our work, we feel one of the main goals is to deconstruct pervasive, abusive, racial and homophobic slurs. The youth we have interviewed tell us quite directly that our artistic response should unequivocally be one that is “in yer face.” During the Feasibility Study and ongoing development for Outcasts & Angels, we spoke
...we felt that we had to integrate our antihomophobia work with our anti-racism initiatives to show the links between these forms of hatred that could potentially lead to hate crimes.
to young people about their perspective on why certain youth were targeted for bullying. Their responses included: “because they are South Asian... or Chinese, the Chinese kids really get it… or Japanese… or Jewish… or gay or lesbian… or suspected to be gay or lesbian… or poor (from a lowincome background)… or new in the school and obviously unsure of themselves… or have a learning disability… or have a physical deformity or disability… or speak English as a second language… are really quiet or shy.” Violent, homophobic, and racist taunts by groups of teens against a chosen scapegoat can have devastating and tragic consequences as we have seen in cases such as the suicides/murders of three 14-yearolds: Reena Virk, Hamed Nastoh of Surrey, BC and Dawn-Marie Wesley of Mission, BC. As out queer and queer-allied artists/activists working in a suburban context in the wake of the hateful, gay-bashing murder of Aaron Webster5, we felt that we had to integrate our anti-homophobia work with our antiracism initiatives to show the links between these forms of hatred that could potentially lead to hate crimes. Our job is to use art and performance as a catalyst for community dialogue about these contemporary tragedies, to work towards preventing them, and to find healthy solutions. It is a tall order and in the sections that follow, I will attempt to explain how we work to accomplish our creative and community goals.
Aaron Webster was the gay man from East Vancouver who was murdered in Stanley Park in November 2001, in an area known for queer cruising. Webster was killed by four young men from Burnaby who pummeled his head in with a blunt instrument such a pool cue or a baseball bat. Though this act of brutality was never tried by the Crown as a hate crime and there was an outcry from the GLBTIQ community, even the judge in the first trial of a guilty youth contextualized it as such.
Preliminary Artistic Methodology
Jules Rochielle and Elaine Carol of MISCELLANEOUS Productions have been working continuously in collaboration with youth from the community on various theatre, video and public art projects since
M I S C E L L A N E O U S
M A G A Z I N E
community support workers for youth and elders, directors of multicultural and immigrant-serving agencies, representatives of human rights organizations and antifascist groups, representatives from Richmond School District #38, elders and youth from the community and larger presentations to youth and seniors’ groups. July - September 2002 – We conducted an outreach campaign focused on Richmond and the Lower Mainland to publicize that MISCELLANEOUS Productions was embarking on another new creative project in collaboration with non-professionals in the community and that those with no experience were welcome. July – September 2002 – We sent media releases out in English and Chinese to publicize focus groups in July and August 2002, and the auditions/interviews in September 2002. The English language campaign was conducted by Elaine Carol and Daniel Collins, and the Cantonese/ Mandarin campaign was coordinated by Catherine Chiu with guidance from Francis Lee, Program Director of SUCCESS, the largest agency serving Chinese Canadians in the Lower Mainland. In the Chinese language media campaign, we stated that auditions, interviews and rehearsals would take place in English. In our English and Chinese press releases and flyers, we invited Richmond community members to join us for focus groups and auditions/interviews. We distributed information to the mainstream, alternative and community media, arts organizations and groups, immigrant-serving agencies, social service agencies, community groups, fitness/sport groups, volunteer agencies, Richmond School District #38, youth groups, seniors’ groups, health clinics, various associations, and more.
What You Carry With You… Photo: jamie griffiths Performers left to right: Marilyn Billingham, Shayne Reilly, Namrita Hayer and Alvin Ram
1999. The research, networking and outreach methodology for our projects consists of an open and multi-layered approach. Research involves the following: a literature search guided by academics and grass-roots, front-line experts in specific relevant fields; a series of focus groups with youth and elders from the community; and individual interviews with academics, community support workers, secondary school representatives, elders and youth from the community. Since our connections to key community members were solidified by our initial efforts during outreach for THE REENA PROJECT (2001) and evaluated as successful, we followed a similar course of action for What You Carry With You… Youth & Elder Performance & Video Project – our second major project in 2003. The outreach, focus group and networking stages of What You Carry With You… occurred as follows: June - July 2002 – We conducted individual and group consultations with academics,
2 8 |
July – August 2002 – A successful series of focus groups were held with community members in Richmond. Youth groups and seniors’ groups were consulted with separately – to ensure that seniors (who were, at this stage of the process, more reticent than teens) would be given a voice in the process. Our experience with youth until that point was that they have no problem sharing their perspective on sensitive issues, whereas older people are more cautious about sharing their thoughts and ideas6. There was an overwhelmingly positive response from youth and seniors. People came from Urdu / Muslim, Punjabi / Sikh, Cantonese, Mandarin, Filipino, Jewish and white communities.
Procedures for Focus Groups, Call-back Auditions and Early Rehearsals
When we organize groups of people together, we make sure that we set a tone for respectful communication. This entails introductions and contextualization of our projects. Also, we suggest ground rules for speaking order, having a speaker’s list, careful listening to one other, no racist, sexist or homophobic terminology, and so forth. We want people to feel comfortable so that they can address focus group questions honestly and thoughtfully. During focus groups and early rehearsals of What You Carry With You… I would talk about my family background as a way of introducing myself and the issues we were about to explore in the construction of the performance: “My grandfather on my mother’s side was an Ashkenazi Jew born in a shtetl called Vinnitsa in the Ukraine that was destroyed in a pogrom by the Cossacks, and my grandmother was a Sephardic Jew born in
Philadelphia. Her skin was dark, and would get darker the farther south she went. Along with my single mom, my grandparents raised me. When I was about 11 years old, holding my grandmother’s hand while crossing the street in Miami Beach, Florida, two white guys in a car shouted “nigger!” at her. Her father was born in Rumania, and her mother’s people came from either Morocco or Algeria. I don’t know much about my father as I pushed him out of my life when I was about 14 years old. He is Jewish, likely a mix of Ashkenazi and Sephardic, is or was a grifter involved in some kind of organized crime when I was growing up, probably smuggling drugs in or out of Asia. He lived in Hong Kong for many years, where he married a Cantonese woman. I have two Chinese half-sisters somewhere, though I believe one committed suicide, and a halfChinese, half-Jewish, half brother who is now a university professor at the Université de Montreal. I am openly queer. ” I am always proud of my background as it has made me uniquely who I am. The usual response from community and cast members to this was, “wow, interesting!” The kind of openness and pride Jules and I exhibit in our own personal introductions is meant to inspire a celebration of diversity. Throughout these processes of focus groups, call-back auditions and early rehearsals, we take copious notes about the participants – their stories, perspectives, discussions. Our style of facilitation tends to be less interventionist in the early stages as we are encouraging group dialogue, openness and the exchange of ideas. We have used the Aboriginal Talking Stick Exercise with groups but have found that certain more privileged individuals hang
When we combined the youth and elders in rehearsals, the opposite occurred and the youth became increasingly quieter. We discovered that they were intimidated by several of the seniors we were working with, and some even felt silenced by them. It was then that we instituted monthly youth-only rehearsals. This was an excellent solution and one in which the youth were able to share more with us regarding drugs, gangs, sex and other sensitive matters that they were dealing with.
M I S C E L L A N E O U S
M A G A Z I N E
onto the stick for 10 minutes or more. When you have only a couple of hours for a focus group of 10 people or four hours for a rehearsal with 15 – 20 actors, this exercise doesn’t necessarily work. Especially in rehearsals, our group of community participants, being performers, tend to be more extroverted, so sharing ideas in a circle is something they generally enjoy – even compete for. We have only had a couple of actors whom we have had to coax out of their protective silence. Eric D. Wong, our diversity consultant who has been a crucial part of our work from the beginning, has suggested an egg timer with a bell for those discussion circles known to include more loquacious types. We have only had to use that method a few times and usually request that people who have already spoken to wait until everyone else has spoken once before they speak again.
theatrical formula. It is important to nurture our collective imagination and remain open to the possibilities of the plot, characters and thematic development of the work. Jules gives us constant feedback, often comes up with interesting plot twists as we reach the middle stages of the creation process, and takes equal responsibility for the aesthetics of the set and video design.
In the sixth to eighth month of rehearsals and the ninth to eleventh outline of the performance, we are almost ready to finalize the script. The central tenets are to collaborate with community members and to guarantee their voice is heard in the process.
I am the head writer and director but also the facilitator and dramaturge. My editorial skills as a collaborating writer have become increasingly sharpened with each performance, and I have been known to cut large sections of over-written text by nonprofessionals as it is common for them to believe that the more lines they have, the bigger their part is. They often don’t yet understand the power of silence onstage, that action can tell the tale or that villains are more fun to play than s/heroes, etc. We also have to keep the audience in mind and remember that, generally speaking, our viewers are the very community we are writing about. In our site-specific works, I usually start by integrating the core issue with the location(s) and design of the piece. For
Outline of Script
I write the first draft outline of the script months before we cast, during the period of research, community outreach, interviews and focus groups. This draft is short, without a clear plot-line, scene list or characters. As our process continues, the drafts become longer and more detailed, broken up into scenes, though the characters are still painted in broad strokes while I wait to cast the performance and work with the actors. It is crucial that I stay open, respond to the needs of community cast members and really listen to the stories being told. I always ask for feedback on outlines from Jules, Eric Wong and Simon Johnston, who is a playwright, director and Manager/Producer of the Gateway Theatre. I respond to and facilitate the cast. I do not mold them into a pre-conceived, deadly
3 0 |
instance, we have been developing a new work entitled e-race since January 2002. erace is a site-specific performance work to be presented by MISCELLANEOUS Productions in Richmond, BC, on Minoru Boulevard outside the Richmond Cultural Centre and across from the Richmond RCMP Headquarters. erace will explore young people’s obsession with speed: fast cars, street racing and amphetamine-based drugs. e-race will also examine the erasure of race that many youth in Richmond feel when these cases of “speed” are discussed.
and public sector funders. Most funders we deal with believe in our work, want to see us succeed, are extremely helpful and supportive.
The Auditioning and Interviewing Process – How We Cast and Build Our Video and Stage Crews
There is nothing more difficult for a young performer than auditioning. I always empathize with the youth who come into our auditions as I was once in their Capezios, dancing my heart out for some pokerfaced guy with a clipboard, coolly examining every move I made, scrutinizing everything about me as if I were some kind of specimen. Now, I’m that guy with the clipboard. I have worked very hard to be encouraging but admit that I can sometimes come off as distant. Those of us with social consciences who conduct auditions have not been able to figure out anything better than the “cattle call.” All directors search for something different. People who can think for themselves, are expressive and reflect their community, are those I want for our productions. I am very interested in youth of colour; larger youth; youth with disabilities; unusual youth; atrisk or high risk youth; outsider youth and youth who are good talkers. Good talkers are often good improvisers/writers and when they work with MISCELLANEOUS Productions, the participants have to be thrilled at the thought of developing their own role with me. We begin our auditions with exercises and routines designed to enable us to watch performers move and dance. Our adult volunteers have the youth (or seniors) fill
Fund development is always a tricky subject with non-profit societies in these days of government cutbacks. There have been thousands of volumes written about private sector fund development, grant writing for government funding programs, and both have become highly specialized. This is the hardest work we do as it takes more time, energy and commitment than any other part of our project – it can take up to 60% of our time and is indeed, an endless task. We begin developing a project financially, usually two to four years before the performance date, often beginning with a feasibility study and continue until three months before Opening Night–that is, of course, if all our funds have been raised. There is no magic and it is not easy. We work very diligently to ensure that our relationships with our public and private sector funders are healthy. We often find the funders who grant awards making up the smallest percentage of our budgets take up most of our time and effort.
What You Carry With You… Photo: jamie griffiths Performer: Theoden Remigio
We could not produce the work that we do without the generous support of our private
M I S C E L L A N E O U S
M A G A Z I N E
out a form to let us know their name and any health concerns they may have. Then, we safety pin a piece of paper with a number that corresponds to the number on their form to the front and back of their shirts. Then, in groups as large as 10 or a small as one at a time, we gently invite them into a separate dance studio. We have hired Margaret Dragu, a choreographer/performance artist to assist us with the auditions for our last two performances. She sets up a number of strength, flexibility and endurance exercises, and dance routines. I stand or sit on the sidelines and watch. When we take a break between groups, Margaret and I compare notes on each of the individual performers. I pay particular attention to how people move, their stage presence and level of enthusiasm, and do not only focus on great technique. My priority in a community such as Richmond is to cast youth of colour who make up 59% or more of the local population. I cast primarily for diversity. Experience is not important. Kaoru Matsushita and Catherine Chiu, who have both been in our last two performances, had only taken one or two drama classes in their high schools. In their auditions, I saw a remarkable grace in the way each young woman moved, and their imaginative improvisations were nothing short of dazzling. It was obvious that in spite of little or no formal acting training, they were going to be exceptional on stage. At the same time, I have cast Alexandra Billingham-Tessier in our last two performances. Alex has a dozen years of dance, singing and acting training under her belt and has played the lead in her high school plays. What convinced me to cast her
is that in addition to being enormously talented and energetic, she is socially and politically aware. She has been working towards developing a solid analysis of the issues of racism, sexism, classism and homophobia in her work with MISCELLANEOUS Productions. Alexandra is a good talker and great listener (as are Catherine and Kaoru). Once a performer makes it through the dance auditions, I set up a series of callbacks. This cuts the number to half or a third of the original candidates. On the application, we ask performers what their second and third choice for involvement in the production is if not cast. We offer them placement on our Video and Stage Crews. Many youth come to sign up specifically for those crews and have no interest in acting. Young people on our Video and Stage Crews have gone on to find paid work through us either at the Gateway Theatre, or as in Trevor Tablotney’s case, as a camera-operator and editor with MISCELLANEOUS Productions. When the performers come to the call-backs, I ask them to introduce themselves, and if they are comfortable, to share information or a point of view that expresses their perspective on the issues we are working to deconstruct in the performance. Then, I will put them through a couple of group theatre exercises based on the work of such recognized theatre teachers and directors as Joseph Chaikin, Viola Spolin and Jerzy Grotowski. These exercises allow me to continue to watch them move, respond to each other, use their voices, energy, and so forth. Finally, based on my outline of the script, I put them together in diverse groups of seven to twelve in an ensemble scene. I explain
All directors search for something different. People who can think for themselves, are expressive and reflect their community are those I want for our productions. I am very interested in youth of colour; larger youth; youth with disabilities; unusual youth; at-risk or high risk youth; outsider youth and youth who are good talkers.
3 2 |
Our process is difficult to explain because it is a postmodern collage of approaches, styles and philosophies that spans disciplines including community development, diversity training, anti-violence education, script writing, theatre history, performance art history, cultural theory, acting, vocal and dance/ movement training.
We find that those who generally tend to interrupt are either very insecure in the group or have issues with giving up their privilege and truly listening to others. Though we are not always successful in encouraging these people to learn how to listen, we attempt to ensure that we give a voice to the person being interrupted.
the basic outline of the scene, give them all quickly sketched characters and ask them to improvise. It is incredible what emerges. Jules watches the entire call-back. After that, I spread all of their forms out on a table and, with Jules, begin the job of casting.
the following guidelines for the group from our first day together: • In consideration of others, everyone must show up on time. Lateness is not acceptable. • We ask those who are calling in sick to give us a minimum of 24 hours notice, if possible. • There is a three-month probation period for all cast members. If we find that individuals are not committed to the work, then we will ask them to leave the cast with an option of joining either the Video or Stage Crew. • We provide a rehearsal schedule for the first three months of the project and give an overview of the schedule for the fourth to final months of rehearsal. We discuss the time commitment of participants. • We provide a payment schedule or a schedule of benefits and in-kind gifts for those who complete the project. • We work towards ensuring that everyone has a lift home after rehearsals and try to figure out car-pooling for the group. This helps to build community. • We ask participants to speak one at a time during group discussions and to speak only for themselves, not for others. • We encourage debate but ask that it be conducted respectfully. We discourage people from interrupting each other7. We ask participants to work very hard to listen to each other and explain that being a good listener goes hand-in-hand with being a good performer. • We say that this is a “racism-, classism-, ableism-, ageism- and homophobia-free zone.” We tell the group that we will intervene if any offensive issues or
Rehearsals – Exploratory Phase
MISCELLANEOUS Productions’ rehearsal process is exceptionally complex and multilayered. Our process is difficult to explain because it is a post-modern collage of approaches, styles and philosophies that spans disciplines including community development, diversity training, antiviolence education, script writing, theatre history, performance art history, cultural theory, acting, vocal and dance/movement training. That stated, here is an attempt at an overview of our process. About one week after casting, MISCELLANEOUS Productions brings the performers together at the Gateway Theatre. We usually “over-cast” because we expect about four to six participants to drop out during the process. Working as a cast member on a MISCELLANEOUS Productions’ project is an intensive process demanding an enormous commitment, especially in terms of time and energy. We always encourage those who want to be involved in the project on a more casual basis to join the Video or Stage Crew. The first few “rehearsals” are actually a series of facilitated discussions in which we initiate a discourse about the issues we are about to explore together. It is also an opportunity to get to know one another. Jules and I begin by giving a brief description of the project and then set down
M I S C E L L A N E O U S
M A G A Z I N E
attitudes are exhibited and then, as a group, deconstruct this language and/or attitude together. Most actors who work on plays receive a complete script on the first day of rehearsal. I begin by letting the cast know that I have written an outline of the performance but usually do not reveal the document until we are approximately three to four months into the rehearsal process. I do this for several reasons. At this early phase, I do not want participants competing for roles and would rather they concentrate on the discussions, workshops, acting, vocal and movement/dance exercises, as well as the development of their character. Instilling my devotion to ensemble performance and emphatically letting cast members know that we don’t believe in a “star system” is key to fostering a healthy group dynamic. We tell the cast we will be bringing in a number of professionals throughout the process for workshops, rehearsals, costume design and fittings, video production, etc. Some of these professionals give workshops in Diversity Training (Eric D. Wong), Freestyle singing and hip hop (Ndidi Cascade), taiko drumming (Eileen Kage and Elaine Stef of Loud), costume design (Rebekka Sørensen, Jennifer Kongpreecha and Farnaz Sadigh-Khaki), etc. There are approximately five four-hour sessions designated to discussion before we get performers up on their feet. The discussion circles are broken down into various thematic areas that we explore in the performance. There are also group and one-to-one conversations about the participants’ exercise regime, vocal/singing potential, dance training and other issues specific to performing.
Thematic areas we have explored in early rehearsals include the following: bullying amongst teens, girls who perpetrate violence against other girls, youth and drug use, gang participation and violence, racism, sexism, homophobia, building intergenerational dialogues, immigration (including settlement challenges and the post-September 11 era), cultural tensions, hate crimes, ageism, and other forms of discrimination. Many of these discussions continue right through the year-long process. Jules and I often refer back to our community research. Sometimes a performer comes to an epiphany about a central theme or issue during rehearsal. We may put a hold on rehearsal while we discuss it as a group.
If a racist, homophobic, classist or sexist comment is made by a participant, we stop rehearsals, “name it,” and gently guide the cast towards a deconstructive discourse. We steer all our work, whether it be a smooth or bumpy ride, into the next phase – character development and collaborative script-writing.
We share news clippings, video excerpts of other performances, and stories of other community members. During THE REENA PROJECT, I brought in a stack of news clippings on Reena Virk and passed them around the circle, each individual actor reading aloud a paragraph. The young participants had never had so much information about Reena and the brutality
What You Carry With You… Photo: jamie griffiths Performer: Adam Dunfee
3 4 |
her attackers inflicted upon her. Several were shocked, some cried, some recognized themselves in the bullied and bullies, and all were grateful to learn so much about such a challenging case. Our early discussions are always fascinating, thought-provoking, emotional and provide an insight into the issues we are examining. We have used personal stories told by cast members in this phase in the final script of both performances as they showed a dynamic tension, and were cathartic. Cast members are naturally extroverted and are, in every case, anxious to share their experiences. We always check in with them regarding their comfort levels, as not all stories are meant for the script. We are not there to exploit them or the sensitive experiences of their families. Some stories are very personal, raw and only to be disclosed within the safety net of the closed and controlled space. We bring a lot of Kleenex to every rehearsal. By the third or fourth rehearsal, I may give cast members some homework as I did with the participants of What You Carry With You…. I asked them to look at old family photographs and choose a “special object” that is personal to them and can fit into a suitcase or trunk. For those who were second to seventh generation, I asked for an object that came from the lives of their parents or grand-parents. The object had to signify their journey to Canada. Usually by the fourth or fifth day of discussion, I begin to mix the routine with acting and movement/dance exercises. I employ the following American acting exercises: the sound and movement exercise that Joseph Chaikin used with the Open Theatre; Lee Strasberg’s chair exercise in
which the performers learn how to concentrate, breathe and relax their bodies so they are more open to expression onstage; and Strasberg’s sense memory exercise. We explore these three exercises for many months, often funneling some of the results of this training into “the final product.” 8 During rehearsals of What You Carry With You… using Strasberg’s sense memory exercise gave us the opportunity to explore the cast members’ “special object” so as to teach a “method” for acting. We also delved into the history of the objects in relation to individual performer’s family, journey and settlement in Canada in Eric D. Wong’s diversity workshop, as part of the Cultural Bag exercise. These objects were so deeply personal and had such resonance for the individual actors that when we put the entire cast onstage together for Act I Scene 3–Leaving and Arriving, with music by the taiko electric group, Loud, commissioned for this section along with the video images of a plane landing at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond–the scene evoked profound memories for both the cast and audience members. The cast members were able to communicate feeling, memory and passion to the audience due to their commitment to the training, process of creation and intent of the performance. Strasberg’s method exercises ensure that performers work from their own experience, honestly communicating their emotional life and relationship with the onstage environment and objects as well as the other characters. This is especially important in our work because the character we create is often a version or extension of the performer. Chaikin’s exercise insists upon a
For Joseph Chaikin and the Open Theatre’s Sound and Movement Exercise, see the following articles: Feldman, Peter. The Sound and Movement Exercise as Developed by the Open Theatre. Devon, England: Dartington College of Arts, 1977. [Peter Feldman interviewed by Peter Hulton. Issued as Theatre Papers, First Series, Number 1 by the Department of Theatre, Dartington College of Arts] Hodge, Alison, Editor. Twentieth Century Actor Training. New York: Routledge, 2000. See page 151 for Joseph Chaikin and aspects of actor training: possibilities rendered present. See page 159 regarding innovation and sound and movement exercises. For Lee Strasberg’s Chair Exercise, see the following articles and website: Krasner, David. “Strasberg, Adler and Meisner: Method Acting.” Ed. Alison Hodge. Twentieth Century Actor Training. New York: Routledge, 2000. Page 132. www.leestrasberg.com/home.html
M I S C E L L A N E O U S
M A G A Z I N E
spontaneity in the actor’s improvisations; energy fed into the performance and communication with each other onstage is essential. These exercises, along with others, assist the performers in developing their characters. I steer the cast members through the auto/biographical/personal, political and archetypal so that their character is fully realized and not a caricature or stereotype. As a navigate, I draw from myriad artistic influences including Jerzy Grotowski, Antonin Artaud, Elizabeth LeCompte, Giles Maheu, Karen Finley, Peter Brook, John Malpede – Los Angeles Poverty Department, Suzanne Lacy, Liz Lerman – Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, South African street theatre, Pina Bausch, Jerri Allyn, Elizabeth Chitty, VideoCabaret, Chinese opera, Aboriginal story-telling, Bertolt Brecht, Commedia d’el Arte, South Asian classical dance, Kabuki, lesbian, gay and feminist performance artists, and more. Throughout my exploratory work with performers, I create a collage of these philosophies, exercises and training–all that I have learned from other theatre artists, choreographers, visual artists, musicians and performance artists from more than 30 years of work as a professional artist. My practice has been influenced by many people from diverse cultures and schools of thought. In working with non-professionals, I try to keep the process as open as possible in the exploratory phase of rehearsals. I especially want to see what I can learn from them. Throughout this period, we conduct a thorough vocal and physical warm-up, working to provide a routine for cast members to use everyday while in rehearsal and performance. Again, this routine borrows from many different techniques of
voice and dance/movement training, as well as my own exercises, developed from years of performing as a solo artist and actor in ensemble work. This routine, which becomes increasingly demanding, is cultivated as we work together and yet provides a kind of comfort, especially for those participants who live in unpredictable environments, that is, those who are “at-risk.” When the cast begins to get used to starting every rehearsal with a vocal and physical warm-up, I bring in a wide selection of world music including pieces recorded by the composers we are commissioning original pieces from. I have the cast members go through a series of movement / dance exercises, routines, encouraging selfexpression, experimentation and improvisation. I watch closely and look for those who are the strongest dancers, including those who have never set foot in a dance studio in their lives. Many people don’t realize that they have a natural grace and ability to dance. Others have a great deal of classical ballet or hip hop training, as well as a strong stage presence. Shayne Reilly, who has been featured in both of our performances, is an incredible mover and has taken several years of classes but lacks some basic technique. I encourage cast members like Shayne to take classes with various local, recognized dance teachers. In our work, I tend to feature both types of performers in dance theatre sections, often juxtaposing the untrained with those who have some experience and those who may have studied ballet, modern, hip hop and tap since they were old enough to stand on their own. At the point where the performers are progressing in the various exercises, I introduce a series of improvisations that will
3 6 |
assist us in developing characters and the script.
the opening section of the performance. Early in this process, it is evident which scenes work and which are simply not gelling. After one to two months of experimenting, I select the most powerful improvisations, ask one or more of the performers to write the script section out and e-mail me an electronic version. Then I go through their segment line-by-line and work to improve the scene. My approach is both dramaturgical and directorial. I trim the scene to its essentials, make certain it adds to the development of the performance as a whole, and ensure that our prodiversity, anti-violence message is eloquent enough for a young or less sophisticated audience. I bring my draft of the script to the performers, and we try the revisions out. The script will continue to go through many drafts as we continue to improvise, write together and develop characters. During this phase, Jules and I bring in specific films such as Do the Right Thing by Spike Lee to teach script-writing, structure and character development. We have a facilitated group discussion after the screening and inspire the cast members to expose themselves to other powerful examples of theatrical writing. In the third or fourth month of the process, I bring the outline in and give copies to the anxious cast members. In some cases, I have written their characters directly into the outline, and in others, I have left it loose. We have long discussions about the outline and make some changes. Then, we work as a team to fit all of the characters into it. The scripting and accurate translation of segments for sub-titling is a true group effort. Writing and translating often
Rehearsals – Character Development, Hot Seat Exercise & Collaborative Script-Writing Phase
MISCELLANEOUS Productions is strongly anti-censorship and promotes a frank discussion of the issues we are exploring.
We let participants know we want them to use their own language to tell their stories in the script. For instance, if a youth feels that s/he is portraying a character who uses foul language because s/he is playing a bully or gang-member, then we encourage that performer to find the most authentic voice of the character, even if it means excessive profanity. Based on my outline, information collected in the community, events in the news, anecdotes about the thematic concerns we are exploring, group discussions, my experience as a performer, writer, director, choreographer and artist, our collective willingness to experiment, and most significantly, imagination, I set up a series of improvisations for the cast. Though we usually improvise in English, we also may have one or more performers speaking their mother tongue or other languages that they are fluent in. The series of improvisations that I construct for teams of two, three or groups of performers are created through a compilation or collage effect. In Outcasts & Angels, we started by improvising a sequence of short monologues–five of which formed
The scripting and accurate translation of segments for sub-titling is a true group effort.
M I S C E L L A N E O U S
M A G A Z I N E
stimulate great discussions about voice, character motivation, syntax versus slang, and the subtleties of taking one language and turning it into another. As we are creating scenes through improvisation and other exercises, watching great work that others have made and continuing our research, I conduct a very thorough cycle of character development exercises with a focus on the Character Hot Seat exercise. In this complex exercise, I ask the performers to create a character that may be related to another character(s) that other performer(s) are creating. I tell them that this person is going to play their sister, mother, daughter, step-father, best friend, biggest tyrant in the hierarchy of bullies, etc. In both performances, actors played more than one role. Sometimes, as in What You Carry With You… I put entire family units together. I ask the performer creating the character to make sure s/he fits in with what we have already improvised and written together. Jules and I encourage the cast members to create a character of their own racial and cultural background because we are trying to empower the individuals by celebrating their own experience. There continues to be a troubling lack of representation of people of colour, people with disabilities, GLBTIQ and Aboriginals in theatre and interdisciplinary performance art in spite of the band-aid solutions of mainstream multicultural policy in the arts in this country. We are at a moment in history in which it is essential to transform the face of Canadian art so that it is truly reflective of the population. We begin that change with supporting young people from these and other “outsider” backgrounds to create enduring, compelling and
inspirational artistic representations of themselves. Earlier in the process, I ask cast members to keep a journal of all their work with us, their impressions, what they have learned, what doesn’t work for them, etc. Only a small minority actually do; however, at this point I stress that this journal is crucial to their own development as performers and writers as well as the phrase-by-phrase, moment-to-moment, action-to-reaction construction of the script. In their journals, I ask cast members to write in prose form the back-story of their character. I pose the following questions: What has happened to the person they are creating before the play begins? What is their name, age, place of birth? Are they first generation immigrants to Canada? Are the character’s parents and grand-parents immigrants? If not, what is the character’s attitude towards immigrants and people of races other than his/her own? What is the character’s relationship like with their parents, sisters, brother, children, friends, etc.? Favourite activity, obsessions, etc.? Is the character’s conflict internal or external? I tell them to write in first person, as if the actor is telling the story of the character’s life. If they are playing more than one character, we request that they write about each individual being. When they have finished their character’s back-story, I put the performer on the “Hot Seat” – centre stage. I ask them to “become their character – completely embody that person, let the character live inside them and come out fully when called.” I ask questions about “themselves” and tell the performer to answer “truthfully” as the character.
There continues to be a troubling lack of representation of people of colour, people with disabilities, GLBTIQ and Aboriginals in theatre and interdisciplinary performance art in spite of the band-aid solutions of mainstream multicultural policy in the arts in this country.
3 8 |
What You Carry With You… Photo: jamie griffiths Performers left to right: Louise Tam and Dan Isaac
complicated, layered and realistic. I tell those performers who are creating protagonists to not be afraid of playing the s/hero. I have to tell the girls of colour in our cast this repeatedly as it is rare to see Asian and African young women of colour s/heroes in the vast majority of theatre and film. There are so few role models in art, and we are quite conscious that we are creating them.
I tell those performers who are creating protagonists to not be afraid of playing the s/hero. I have to tell the girls of colour in our cast this repeatedly as it is rare to see Asian and African young women of colour s/heroes in the vast majority of theatre and film. There are so few role models in art, and we are quite conscious that we are creating them.
After the person in the Hot Seat has answered all my questions, I invite the other performers to ask questions. Some performers on the Hot Seat are able to immediately represent the character as if they have put on a new coat that is tailormade and answer every question with an uncanny spontaneity. Often what these actors perform in this moment of the exercise is magical, and they are able to carry the urgency of their discovery into the performance. Others struggle, not quite sure of what they are doing and how to respond to certain questions. At this initial stage, I let those who are having difficulty “finding their character” know that it is a perfectly natural part of the creation process – not only of their character but of the script, as well. For these cast members, I will suggest they undertake specific library and web research or watch certain individuals, in their schools or work-places, that may hold one or more of the predominant traits of the individual they are molding like a piece of clay. I ask the performer to love this character, even if they have monstrous qualities or are particularly vulnerable. To emotionally and spiritually embrace the person being created is essential to making the character If cast members are playing someone very much like themselves, it will often enable them to become more reflective and ultimately, serve to empower the performer. If the actor is a bully in real life, and I ask them to play a victim, we frequently find it will assist that person in becoming more empathetic. Those who are habitually targets of oppressors may be asked to play the tormenter. It is through the development of an antagonistic character that our more vulnerable cast members come to a deeper understanding of the root causes of why and how destructive people function in society. I combine the newly scripted material as well as the evolving improvisations with what has come out of the Hot Seat exercise and add another experiment. We explore gender-bending and generational switching. In our two performances, we have had sections in which boys play girls and older women, girls play abusive fathers, a young and older man exchange roles, and an older woman plays a violent and confused young man. These exceptional scenes confront our cast and audience members in constructive ways, promoting a dialogue about gender, sexuality, aging, intergenerational relationships, communication and belonging. Here are four examples of excerpts from our scripts of Outcasts & Angels and What You Carry With You….
M I S C E L L A N E O U S M A G A Z I N E
Section from THE REENA PROJECT / Outcasts & Angels – Bad Daddies and Beaten Down Daughters: A Game Show – Act One Scene Three – written by Elaine Carol with Alexandra Billingham-Tessier, Namrita Hayer, Shayne Reilly, Bryan Krahn and Kaoru Matsushita (All performers enact this scene completely facing the audience and do not look at each other – performing “in concert.” ) Alexandra/Bad Dad’s Game Show Host: And now, ladies and gentlemen, Contestants number #2! Namrita/Dad #2: (Flipping channels with a remote control) Oh, God! Shayne/Daughter #2: What? Namrita/Dad #2 :Look at that! That’s disgusting! Shayne/ Daughter #2: So…. Namrita/Dad #2: They’re fags! Shayne/ Daughter #2: What’s your point? Namrita/Dad #2: If God made two parts, let ‘em use it! Shayne/ Daughter #2: Well, maybe they think differently. Namrita/Dad #2: If you ever become like that… so help me God, you will never set foot in this house again. Shayne/Daughter #2: Well, what if I am? Namrita/Dad #2: You bitch! (slaps Daughter #2 and s/he reacts.)
(…Contestants number #3 go back into position. They are replaced by Contestants number #4. Dad #4 is drunk.) Alex/Game Show Host: Ooooooh, edgy! And finally Contestants #4! Bryan/Daughter #4: Dad… Kaoru/Dad #4: What? Bryan/Daughter #4: How was your day? Kaoru/Dad #4: Bad. Bryan/Daughter #4: Oh… okay… Kaoru/Dad #4: Huh? Bryan/Daughter #4: Well… do you remember prom and my boyfriend, Shayne…. Kaoru/Dad #4: Prom? Bryan/Daughter #4: Yeah… well, after prom, we… and now I’m…. Kaoru/Dad #4: What? Bryan/Daughter #4: I’m pregnant! Kaoru/Dad #4: You’re telling me that you fucked (“pushes” his daughter, who physically reacts) your boyfriend! Bryan/Daughter #4: No… yes! Kaoru/Dad #4: Is that yes? Bryan/Daughter #4: Yes. Kaoru/Dad #4: You killed my wife, you fucked your boyfriend, you’re pregnant and now the same thing is going to happen to you!
4 0 |
Section from What You Carry With You... Act One Scene Six written by Elaine Carol with Louise Tam, Catherine Chiu and Cristina Yao (In this scene, the older actor plays the 17-year old girl and vice versa in a role reversal.) Louise/Laura as Jade (speaks Malaysian Mandarin): You have never been teased, how can you understand? Catherine/Jade as Laura (on video – Extreme Close Up – speaks English): Remember when I left Hong Kong? I came to Canada and I was working at Vancouver General Hospital and had to work so much harder. Harder than anyone else there. And then, on top of that, my boss and coworkers would tease me about my accent and would say that they didn’t understand me. Louise/Laura as Jade (speaks Malaysian Mandarin): They made fun of you? Why did you take their insults? Catherine/Jade as Laura (on video – Extreme Close Up – speaks English): I did because I needed the job so that I could send money home to support my children. Louise/Laura as Jade (speaks Malaysian Mandarin): Oh I understand. You needed the job so you would have money to raise your children. Catherine/Jade as Laura (on video – Extreme Close Up – speaks English): Well, one day I made up my mind to improve my pronunciation, so I took an English as a Second Language course at a community college. But my teacher told me that my English pronunciation was just fine. She had no problems understanding me and asked me why I took this course. I told her that my boss said that she could not understand me. My teacher told me that everyone has their own particular accent - even Americans, British and Canadians have accents. And within the different regions of Canada, there are distinct accents or dialects. She also encouraged me to tell my boss that she had her own accent. So, I did. My boss was German and had a very strong accent when she spoke English – she didn’t even realize it herself. I continued my ESL course until the end because I wanted to improve my ability to speak English more fluently, so that I could communicate with other people more easily. So, it’s up to you. But don’t feel pressured by others or get discouraged. You must stand up and be firm. Do your best and do what is right. Just be yourself.
Section from What You Carry With You… Act One Scene Six written by Elaine Carol with Dan Isaac and Theoden Remigio (In this scene, the young actor plays the older actor and vice versa in a role reversal. The following scene is excerpted from the middle and performed in Tagalish - a mixture of Tagalog and English. Here is the English translation.) Dan as Broca, the student: Well, today a bunch a Flips ganged up on my sister… like, as in seriously… these girls dragged her to the washroom and there they yelled out all this crap about why she keeps hangin’ out with “white trash and towel-heads” (makes the sign of quotes) and why she’s being such a snob towards them. And you know… they even went as far as to slap her? Theoden as Mr. Santos, the guidance counselor (on video – ECU): Wait. You mean these Filipinos that you speak of, are so racist as to not allow her to befriend kids of other races?
M I S C E L L A N E O U S M A G A Z I N E
Dan as Broca: It’s not that. You know how Flips, and yeah… they’re pretty much fresh off the boat… um, they tend to stick together and not speak anything other than Tagalog, and continue acting the way they did back when they were in the Philippines. Like, thuggish and makin’ as if they were a bunch a tough peeps from the ghetto? I think it’s so lame that they can’t just leave her alone… can’t they see that she’s been here in Canada her whole life? Jeez! Theoden as Mr. Santos (on video – ECU): I see… but you said something about her acting snobbish, or something of the sort. Could that be the reason why they’re lashing out at her? Dan as Broca: Well, no, that’s not what I meant. You see, she’d be eating in the cafeteria and then they’d come up to her and start speaking in Tagalog. She can barely understand, let alone reply. What else can she do but walk away? Those kind of situations make her uncomfortable, you know. Theoden as Mr. Santos (on video – ECU): But you must understand. I grew up in the Philippines and over there, pretty much everyone’s got their own group… and they’re all Filipinos. So you can only imagine how a fresh-off-the-boat teenager, as you call them, would feel when they see some Filipino girl hanging out with a group of people that they can’t associate with, at least not while they’re uncomfortable with their English. They’d feel as if that girl… in this case your sister… thinks that they’re not good enough to be friends with her. Dan as Broca: I see what you’re saying. But man I still think it’s wrong, this Filipino-stickingtogether mentality is what’s holding us back from coming into good terms with the rest of the community. Theoden as Mr. Santos (on video – ECU): That’s not necessarily true… you really can’t throw away the fact that you’re Filipino, and at the same time you also shouldn’t be so fanatical at it as to reject other cultures. Is Canada not supposedly a “beacon for multiculturalism?” I think tolerance is the answer here. And just to let you know… this is not isolated to Filipinos only… it also happens in the Chinese community and many others. Dan as Broca: Yeah, that’s true, I guess. But what do I tell my sister? I was like, at a loss of words when I was talking to her. That’s why I came to you. Theoden as Mr. Santos (on video – ECU): Well, I’m glad you did…it’s always better to ask for advice when it comes to these matters. First, let me tell you what the problem here is. It’s called internalized racism when people of the same race or nationality disagree over how they are supposed to act, what they are supposed to say or do. Some years ago, I traveled to Singapore with Canadian colleagues to study the education system there. Everyone else on the study tour were Caucasian. I was the only brown person in the group. When we went through Singaporean Customs, everyone just walked through, but when it came to me, the customs officer made me stop and asked to look into my luggage. Naturally I was shocked but I obeyed. But I asked him, “Why’d you stop me? You let my friends through without any problems… but me… is it because I’m brown?” Then, he looked at me as if he didn’t realize that at all… and then he said, “Where are you from?” Since I’ve lived in Canada my whole life, I replied that I was a Canadian and he gave me this unbelievable look of disgust as if to suggest I was showing off. You see, you really shouldn’t hide your roots. My brother told me that to answer such a question without offending anyone, you should say, and now, this is what I say every time, “I am Canadian by citizenship and Filipino by blood.”
4 2 |
What You Carry With You… Photo: jamie griffiths Performers left to right: Kaoru Matsushita, Adiam Bhrane, Dan Isaac, Iva Lam, Shayne Reilly (covered), Alvin Ram and Catherine Chiu
As we are creating together as an ensemble, experimenting, writing and rehearsing, I cut and sew together the pieces of the patchwork that will become a full script. I may move the sequence of scenes around. Any scenes that are to be shot on video, become set and we prepare to film these segments. In collaboration with the cast, I begin to weave movement and choreography together with our personal/family histories, intention, theme, props and imagination into a dance-theatre section. We rehearse the songs we are going to sing, deciding who is going to sing the solos and harmonies, giving the strongest singers the lead. Throughout our process, Eric D. Wong, our Diversity Consultant, comes in for a series of his extraordinary workshops. He has given sessions to our Board, Artistic Team and performers, the most moving being the cycle conducted with cast members, Jules and I for What You Carry With You….
Eric attends rehearsals and gives us frequent feedback. Along with Jules and Simon Johnston, Eric works to support me as I develop the script with the participants. He focuses on character development, clarity of the pro-diversity/anti-racism message and language that we use. Eric’s work with us is invaluable, as demonstrated in his contribution to this publication. We also provide music workshops to the cast, Video and Stage Crew participants. Ten weeks before opening both performances, when tensions ran high, we brought in local women drummers, the taiko electric group, Loud. These awesome women led the participants in a Japanese drumming workshop, helping everyone release their nervousness and apprehension. Both workshops were very successful. Loud was commissioned to write two musical compositions for MISCELLANEOUS Productions over the past four years–”Rush” for Outcasts & Angels and “What You Carry…” for What You Carry With You….
M I S C E L L A N E O U S
M A G A Z I N E
Ndidi Cascade has also come in to give our performers a hip hop/free styling workshop, as well as singing rehearsals for What You Carry With You…. The cast members loved using their voices and enjoyed the opportunity to sing and move to her excellent, popular ballad and dance to her hip hop piece. We are proud to include Ndidi’s lyrics to “Invisible” in MISCELLANEOUS Magazine. Our costume designers come in to work with the performers and me, as well as other members of the design and production team. We have included their sketches in this publication. We were particularly enthralled by one television journalist who referred to the costume designs for Outcasts & Angels as “a cross between the Gap and Mad Max!” We establish a series of Open Rehearsals in which we invite key people in the community including the Artistic Team, funders and community leaders, as well as our volunteer Board members to come in and watch rehearsals and run-throughs. After the presentation, we facilitate an audience feedback session that is very much like a community forum. This essential dialogue with the community helps us push the performance in-progress to the next level. Throughout this phase of rehearsals and scripting, we begin setting the sequences that are working particularly well. In French, rehearsal is repetition and that is precisely what we establish in this period of the process. I work with the performers, and we rehearse every section of the play over and over again, breaking down every moment, movement and note. We sweat over every detail, every nuance, and it shows when we come to perform the piece.
In Jules Rochielle’s essay for this publication, she cites the difficulty in switching gears from process-oriented work to production, in essence going from a “touchy-feely” course of development into a rigorously results-oriented presentation. It is exceedingly de-stabilizing for the nonprofessional cast members, yet most adjust easily. Those who are unable to make this shift have been known to be disruptive; however, the professional artists realize that after months of process-oriented work, the sudden shift could be interpreted as harsh. Months before, we repeatedly warn cast members about the pressures inherent in production; however, it doesn’t always permeate their consciousness. We have tried to provide the on-site services of a community support worker; however, we are unable to pay for a full-time employee. Our funders believe that those participants who need extra support should access services already available in the community. Our experience is that our participants do not follow through with accessing social services from the community-based agencies. The best our under-funded arts organization has been able to afford is either a worker who came in reliably from the dress rehearsal until the end of the run of performances, essentially after the stressful production phase, or a licensed social worker who popped in and out without any consistency for six months of the process. We are hoping to raise sufficient funds for e-race to hire a full-time community support worker from the production phase until the week after closing night.
What You Carry With You… Costume Design: Jennifer Kongpreecha
4 4 |
What You Carry With You… Photo: jamie griffiths Performers left to right: Shayne Reilly and Adam Dunfee
THE REENA PROJECT/Outcasts & Angels Photo: Daniel Collins Performers left to right – top row: Danielle Ow, Catherine Chui and Jessica Phillips – middle row: Namrita Hayer, Alexandra BillinghamTessier, Emina Skrijelj, Kaoru Matsushita, Lecayle Hubert – bottom row: Bryan Krahn, Shayne Reilly and Adam Dunfee
Part of our job is to make every community participant realize their potential within this process and shine onstage. Bringing in unionized, professional stage management and technicians as well as the lighting designer to work with community participants – even though the two worlds function in completely contradictory ways – is essential in reaching that goal. So much of this part of the process is dependent upon the personalities of the unionized individuals as the performers rely on them. The “techs” are the role models, often setting the tone of our collective, professional working arrangement. At the time of the taiko drumming workshop, when we begin to work with the professional stage manager and technicians, we finalize the script. In both previous performances, this was in July as we prepared for openings in mid-September. This leaves us approximately ten weeks to “set the piece,” that is, to explore the sitespecific locations, build the sets, hang the lights, fit the costumes, and polish the
production. We ask the performers to commit their lines to memory while using the techniques we are teaching them to preserve the passion behind the words. I become more demanding of the performers, doing everything I can to ensure that the message of the piece is articulate and the actors are magnificent onstage. Having colossal energy is important, and I work hard to transmit that vitality to the performers. With the assistance of Jules and the stage management, I insist that every cast member conduct a full warm-up before they rehearse and perform. A complete group warm-up including concentration, physical and vocal exercises guarantees that the performance of the ensemble and individual will be fully expressed, our message will be unambiguously communicated, and no one will go hoarse during the run of the performance or injure themselves or others onstage. During the production phase, we meet more often and begin to “run-through” the performance from the beginning to the end.
M I S C E L L A N E O U S
M A G A Z I N E
Some rehearsals are devoted to “working sections,” and we break them down and perfect each moment. It is repetitive, even relentless; however, this commitment to art, this examination of severe truth, passion and beauty always pays off in the performing. In the professional theatre, there is a tradition in which the director and stage manager of the performance “give notes” in an attempt to hone the work–the director concentrating on the performance and the stage manager focusing on the technical aspect, such as which entrance someone uses, where they move onstage, where the prop should be set, specifics of lighting, set, costumes, and more. During each runthrough, technical and dress rehearsal, I watch from the audience and take notes on what I believe can be enhanced, slightly altered, or refined. After the run-through, we get together with the cast and stage managers, and a candid conversation ensues about how we can make this performance the best it can be. There are cast members who have been able to take in the “note” session and make changes in the next rehearsal. Approximately 10 to 20% of the participants simply cannot take in the request to improve – even if it means an enormous progress for the ensemble. Those who can’t have often established a pattern of being defensive with the group and/or me – they believe any critique, no matter how warmly delivered, means they are a “bad person.” I understand from other directors that every cast, whether professionals or amateurs, has performers who are unable to listen. During our last production phase, I began almost every session with opening comments explaining what notes are and why I am
working to ensure that every individual as well as the ensemble of performers excel onstage. The pressure mounts as we get closer to opening night and adhere to a grueling schedule of warm-ups, cue-to-cues, technical and dress rehearsals. For many of us, we are working together on nights and week-ends, after we put in time at work and/or school during the weekdays. Our dress rehearsal, in which we perform with full costumes, props, make-up, and so on, is our final chance to prepare for opening night, our first before a paying audience.
Both Outcasts & Angels and What You Carry With You… had extremely successful runs, with sell out audiences and standing ovations. Most audience members were moved and surprised at the aesthetic, ambitiousness and professionalism of the performance. After each performance, we take a few minutes to let the performers catch their breath and then seat them all onstage in a long line. I facilitate a dialogue in which we turn on the house lights and ask the members of the audience for feedback. These audience feedback sessions are essential, perhaps even the most valuable part of the work we do in the community. It expands the circle and deepens our discussion of the perplexing challenges facing us in contemporary society.
4 6 |
Our experience was that most viewers’ questions and comments focus on their desire that MISCELLANEOUS Productions get our powerful pro-diversity message out to a larger audience. There are numerous requests to tour to schools and distribute documentation of the performance nationally. The reality is that a tour would cost our organization a minimum of $500,000 and is beyond our capacity. Even the national distribution of a video, at this stage of our growth, is out of our reach. In the meantime, we keep producing new projects, hoping that one day this dream of touring, national distribution, and/or a television mini-series will become a reality.
Evaluation is a tool to assist us in reviewing our last project as well as planning and developing our next. We are also required by our funders to undertake a thorough evaluation. Throughout the process, Jules and I continually evaluate the progress of our work. The participants are asked for feedback at various phases of the process, and we learn a great deal from this. Jules and I tend to be very hard on ourselves and are trying to learn to accept our limited resources as individuals and as an organization. Dr. George Tien, a distinguished psychologist and evaluator, has donated his services to assist us in designing questionnaires and writing the Evaluation Report. Without his generosity, we could not achieve the goals of the evaluation.
In its efforts to explore the creative process as a way to end racism and violence, MISCELLANEOUS Productions opens challenging discourses, gives a voice to the disempowered, works towards solutions, and makes great performances. Jules and I continue building alliances and making art. Despite the many barriers we face, we are driven to create, indestructible and determined on our paths with the communities we bring together.
Elaine Carol is the Artistic Director of MISCELLANEOUS Productions. Her recent credits include GOSSIP (1992 – 1996 – performance, writing and direction), THE REENA PROJECT / Outcasts & Angels (2000 – writing and direction) and What You Carry With You… (2003 – writing and direction).
What You Carry With You… Photo: jamie griffiths Performers left to right: Alvin Ram and Theoden Remigio
complex. People of colour on the streets experience the violence that arises from false polarizations between so-called “good and evil,” as is made abundantly clear in What You Carry With You… It is crucial to engage with and critically reflect upon the complexities of what it means to live after an event such as September 11, a tragedy that was opportunistically used by the U.S. as a pretext for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. MISCELLANEOUS Productions’ work encourages us to think about how the local and the global are increasingly interconnected. I was blown away by the passion and the vitality of its first production, Outcasts and Angels, which resulted from extensive community collaboration and interaction. The creative energy of the youths in that show tapped into a larger struggle against racism that has been ongoing for centuries. The struggle is not over. What might a decolonized, sustainable, genuinely peaceful society look like? It will take the efforts of many–including creative folks like those who participate in MISCELLANEOUS Productions–to help materialize our visions.
Rita Wong is the author of monkeypuzzle, a book of poems for which she received the Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop Emerging Writer Award. She has taught at Capilano College and the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. She is a founding member of Direct Action Against Refugee Exploitation.
9 See Himani Bannerji. The Dark Side of the Nation. Toronto: Canadian Scholars' Press, 2000.
t is exciting to work with cultural workers who dive into the contradictions of living in a neoliberal era where legal equality supposedly exists yet social inequities are rife in our daily lives. MISCELLANEOUS Productions does not shy from the dissonance between the social norms of what Canada is supposed to be and the “dark side of the nation,” the experiences of people who undergo the violence of colonization and imperialism.9
Writing this on the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people, I acknowledge my gratitude to the indigenous peoples of this area and recognize how much work remains to be done in the long process of decolonizing our cultures. If we are to survive in the long term, we need to cultivate healthier relationships with one another and with the land on which we live. For this long term view, much courage and alliance building are required. This is where groups such as MISCELLANEOUS Productions have an important role to play. Driven by the memory of tragic murders such as those of Reena Virk, Aaron Webster, and many more, this organization aims to speak truths to power and to end violence by building cultures that value peace. It is important to continue staking our claim to that word–peace–which has been so abused and violated by the military agenda of the Bush regime, that has intimidated Canada’s Liberal government into compliance with the interests of the U.S.-based military industrial
4 8 |
THE REENA PROJECT/Outcasts & Angels Costume Design: Rebekka Sørensen