2016 Artists: Ladies of the CNR

Three women sneak into an empty and abandoned locomotive repair shop, their former employ during World War II. They revisit the world of the machines that temporarily held them captive, and re-experience the challenges of life on the Homefront.

Ladies of the CNR is a vignette inspired by a powerful wartime photograph with the provocative caption: “Ladies of the CNR Shops, Stratford 1944.”

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Courtesy of Perth Archives

 

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The project is conceived by Kelly McIntosh, actor, director, and devisor of theatre. Kelly brings her experience of creating shows through research/interview techniques learned from director Paul Thompson of Farm Show fame. Their collaboration credits include The Outdoor Donnellys, Death of a Hired Man, and Hippie for the Blyth Festival. Kelly has worked in theatres across the country and acted in the inaugural production of Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

 

STACY SMITH

 

Stacy Smith is an actor, arts educator and theatre-maker. She’s worked in theatres throughout the country and extensively in television and film.  She was nominated for a Genie award for her work in the film New Waterford Girl. She recently completed a run of The Ladies Foursome at Theatre Aquarius and Drayton Entertainment.

 

bAPTISTE NEIS

 

Baptiste Neis is a graduate of Concordia University’s Acting Program with a Drama For Human Development specialization. Baptiste most recently co-facilitated a community puppet capacity building project in Newfoundland with David Lane of the Old Trout Puppet Workshop.  A founding member of the Clever Crones, she presented a new work in development at Springworks 2016, The Baker’s Daughter.

 

 

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Jody Satchell, crew/performer: Jody is a Perth County Organic Farmer, and works as a carpenter at the Stratford Festival Scenic Shops.

 

 

hEATHER dAVIS

 

Heather Davies provides directorial assistance for the vignette. Heather’s directorial credits span across North America, the UK Germany and Spain. Filling a variety of directing roles Heather has worked with an impressive list of theatre companies that includes the Stratford Festival, The Grand Theatre and The Royal Shakespeare Company. Upcoming: Colours in the Storm at The Grand, London ON

 

Early dramaturgical/ research assistance by Elizabeth Davidson.

KELLY MCINTOSH, ILONA STEINACKER

‘Lady of the CNR’ Ilona Steinacker with Kelly McIntosh

Kelly McIntosh explains how ‘Ladies of the CNR’ relates to the theme of Unharvested Histories: 

Many people have sought me out to share their stories and to encourage me to continue. The shops are a big deal in Stratford. For one, they loom, empty, cavernous, dangerous, unresolved. Most locals I meet are connected one way or another through a family member. I see this story not just as a Stratford story, but a national story, and of women, and a perspective on our involvement with industry not unlike the Bomb Girls and Riveters. But for the lone photograph who would have remembered them? Our aim is to share and celebrate these women, who rose to the occasion, to a moment in history where necessity bent the gender lines. Many of their descendants tell me oh mum never talked about that, I didn’t even know there was a photograph, isn’t that something?

2016 Artists: Henry Greenspan

Henry (“Hank”) Greenspan is a psychologist, oral historian, and playwright/actor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His play, REMNANTS was originally produced for National Public Radio in the U.S. and has been presented as a one-person staged performance by Greenspan at more that three hundred venues worldwide. He has been the Fulbright Visiting Research Chair at the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia University in Montreal. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild.

We asked Hank how REMNANTS represents Unharvested Histories: 

Rather than single “testimonies,” my work with Holocaust survivors is based on multiple interviews with the same survivors that extended over months, years, and–with a few people–even decades. Survivors (like everyone else) say different things, and in different ways, in sustained conversations that allow deepening reflection, exploration, and candor. For that reason, much of what REMNANTS presents has not been “harvested” before.

You can see more of Hank’s work at www.henrygreenspan.com

Playing With Ghosts: An Interview with Anuja Ghosalkar on Performing Archival Absences

Co-Director of Staging Our Histories, Arpita Bajpeyi, recently had a chance to meet with Anuja Ghosalkar, founder of the Bangalore-based theatre company DramaQueen.  Ghosalkar is also the actor-writer behind Lady Anandi, a one-woman play based on her research into her maternal great grandfather’s career as a Marathi actor and female-impersonator in late nineteenth century India. The following is an e-interview with Anuja on her work and experience crafting and performing Lady Anandi.

To begin with, you mentioned that you had an opportunity to start writing Lady Anandi as an artist-in-residence at an art lab in Stockholm . Before you began writing the piece, though, what was your experience in the archives like? What drew you there in the first place?

I have always been fascinated with archives—  during my work as a film researcher in 2005 with Rosie Thomas, University of Westminster on the early stunt film in India, I spent hours peering over newspapers from the 1930’s and 40’s at the Asiatic Library, Mumbai. I made several visits to the National Film Archives of India and there too, the smell of film and the documents I found, intrigued me. I suffered from archive fever.

Following this, I did an Oral History project on my grandfather, Ram Tipnis—the oldest living make-up artist in India at the time.  A Sarai fellowship enabled me to record his stories—a history from the periphery of cinema and its technology. The entire project is documented here: http://papaajoba.blogspot.in

During five my years at Indian Foundation for the Arts, as programme officer for the Arts Research and Documentation programme I closely interacted with archivists, academics and organized and attended conferences around documentation and the role of archives. Through this, my significant learning was, while there is some attempt at archiving in India, there is no artistic intervention within the archival spaces. To plug this gap, I, along with a colleague designed fellowships for artists to retrieve materials from archives and use it artistically. Our aim was to enable the archive, not just as a repository site but also as a site of retrieval.

Post IFA, I became an actor— a lifelong dream that I decided to pursue at 34! It was during my early days as an actor, that I had the idea to use material from my family archive. I wanted to tell a story that meant something to me, rather than work with a pre-written text. Thus, I decided to work on the story of my great-grandfather—a female impersonator in late 19th century Marathi theatre. But he was absent from the archive and my archival excavation was drawing dust.

That led me to the question— can the archive be site of omission as well?

One of the things I loved about Lady Anandi was how you used the medium of the play to call attention to the distance between yourself and the scenes featuring your great grandfather. You read from scripts and wove stage directions into the scenes themselves – though the latter is something you did in scenes featuring your character, Lady F, as well. Can you elaborate on your choices in using, and pushing, the boundaries of your medium? Was that something that developed as you wrote the piece, or as you performed it? 

At the end of my residency, I had to share my text in a formal presentation. I had written the text for three actors, however I didn’t have access to actors Sweden, so decided to read all the characters myself. Since I didn’t have time to learn lines, I decided to hold the script in my hand, in case I fumble. During the “presentation” it became apparent to me that there was merit in it. While writing the script I hadn’t decided that will be “read out” rather than performed. But the more I present Lady Anandi, the more I feel holding the pages of the text are vital to create distance. And since in my mind it is unfinished, and it is a presentation, holding the papers seem only natural. Early on, while pitching the performance, I would say it is a lec-dem and I feel that in that form holding your papers in front of an audience is acceptable.

In short, that decision was made while I performed it for an audience. I think a performance can be rehearsed several times but it’s only when one does it in front of an audience, does its impact become obvious. Otherwise it’s a bit like going scuba diving in a swimming pool, the ocean is missing.

Having been a part of many mainstream plays, I feel the idea of a completed piece which is perfect, where everyone knows their lines, and is clean, does not appeal to me. In my aesthetic world, I prefer rough edges, mistakes, it really shows up the spirit of exploration. I do not mean that rigour is compromised, I simply mean that some part of the puppeteers strings show.

You use projections of archival photographs of your great grandfather throughout the play, often projecting them onto your own body. Like him, you slip fluidly in and out of differently gendered bodies throughout the play. It’s no surprise you premiered Lady Anandi at the Gender Bender theatre festival presented by the Goethe-Institut with Max Mueller Bhavan and the Sandbox Collective! Can you speak a little on your use of these photographs, your body, and the place of gender in the play?

Gender is central to the performance. I always knew that my great grandfather had a theatre company and he played female characters. But it was while working with a German dramaturg on Virginia Woolf’s text A Room of One’s Own, I thought about creating a performance on him. In Woolf’s text she writes about Shakespeare’s imaginary sister, Judith—would she have been given the chance to be a playwright? Or would she be married off? That had me question my place me in theatre, the roles I was given, the lines I was made to say. The responses I received when I decided to be a full time theatre actor at 34! Deeply uncomfortable with my insights, I decided to create a performance that meant something to me—two actors, separated by 100 years, one who plays women characters convincingly, the other, me, struggling to stand like lady.

I looked at family albums, one aunt had three photos, the other a few more. It was becoming apparent to me that he was absent from theatre history. In the stories I had heard of him growing up, he seemed like a hero, who played both male and female characters with ease, received critical acclaim, drank five litres of milk a day, loved wrestling. Could these stories be made up to feed my young imagination? Was he an apparition? If not, why was he missing from the archives?

But I found twenty odd photos of him. The decision to use photos was something I made right at the start of the project. That was the only real material I had. The more I looked at the photos, the more connected I felt to him. I could see him and touch him. And as I an actor, touching that image, however ephemeral, makes it tangible for me.

I believe that the body is an archive of the past as well, of what we have experienced, suffered, endured and it holds stories of our ancestors. And as an actor, I wanted to capture those images on my body.

I am interested in looking at the photo archive and its relation to the body as an archive and I put myself at the centre of it. Me, with my imperfections and the photos in all their regality and finesse.

Who is ‘Lady F’? How did you use her to situate yourself within the play? Or was she a vehicle for you to say something else, maybe address a gap that needed some attention within the work or the context/dialogue you see the play functioning in?

Yes, you are absolutely right, she is a vehicle for me. In theatre we love narrators, someone who pieces it together—Lady F is that character, except that she cannot give us a complete picture. I have often been asked is Lady F different from Anuja? Why not just say Anuja? Lady F is certainly NOT Anuja, she is the person who sees the ghost of her great grandfather every time she goes up on stage, Anuja doesn’t see ghosts, she writes about characters who do. A lot of theatre veterans said to me in the early stages of this project, “why should I listen to your story?”, “why is the personal so important for us to watch on stage, pay money for it?”  Therefore I created Lady F (F for Fuck Off, if you will, or F for Female).  But I do not “play act” Lady F, she is natural, urban, can answer questions, talks about process. Anuja later tells her how the show went, scolds her if she got a delivery wrong and so on.

 

When I had the chance to see Lady Anandi, you prefaced your performance by saying that this was a work in progress. After the show, you welcomed questions, critiques and comments from the audience. What has it been like to perform the piece for audiences as a work in progress? What has come out of this process for you, so far? 

It has been a very rewarding experience sharing this unfinished work. It makes me vulnerable as a performer and creator but it also emboldens one’s choices. It ties back to my earlier point about scuba diving in a pool—the audience is one of the most vital elements of a performance for me. Several people have said to me after the show, “thank you for making us feel important, as if what we say really counts. Otherwise we are shown work after it is completed.” The audience, especially in Delhi at S-47 Panchsheel Park, was rigourous in their feedback. They engaged with the process, with the research. They were progressive enough to say “you don’t need a director”, “it is unfinished only because you say it is, we felt it is complete”. Showing it to the audience has given me courage!

I also like the performative element of the Q& A— I sit there, someone asks me something terribly important. There is a shot in Godard’s Breathless where he shows a press conference and the inanities of it. I love it. But on a serious note, one audience member came and said to me, we are as vulnerable as you are, sitting there, trying not to hurt you, but say something that will add value to the project.

To reiterate, I really enjoy the feedback process, it teaches me a lot. And in the absence of a director, who critiques the show, the audience’s response fulfills that.

You wrote, above, that your research led you to question whether the archive can be a site of omission. I think for a lot of us who delve into the (institutional) archives, particularly when we’re looking for histories that tend to be marginalized by text and assumptions about the kinds of narratives that should be preserved as history, we find more gaps and silences than stories. What are your thoughts on encountering these absences in the archives and, more generally, history? How can we use the body as an archive, as you put it to respond to these?

This is a complex question to respond to. In my case, given that I had very little information on my great grandfather, I had to turn to my own body. And I felt that there may be some continuity there, in the stories or memories we physically carry. I think as performers, we can turn to our bodies for some sort of a response, either by juxtaposing our bodies with material we find or simply occupying space, where archival material is absent. For a filmmaker, academic, her relationship to that missing archive might be different. So I cannot comment about it in general terms but I guess what I am trying to say is that in our search for that missing archive, our relationship to the scant materials or tools we use to mediate it, is of great significance. Also, in Lady Anandi, the quest to find the material is what audience members enjoy watching. This leads me to believe that, the endeavor to fill the gaps is as vital an act, as finding that material.

My thought on history— I am not sure I am qualified to answer it. But I’ll attempt it. It is that the more personal, un-institutional voices that write it, tell it, the better it might be. I am a bit skeptical of a grand historical narratives. I prefer the fragmented, disjointed versions of it.

Many thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule for this, Anuja! We look forward to following your work, and seeing Lady Anandi in Bangalore again in July.

 

Anuja Ghosalkar is a theatre actor, writer and director based in Bangalore. Drama Queen, her theatre company, is evolving a unique form of documentary theatre in India. Anuja has worked with theatre directors including Atul Kumar, Abhishek Majumadar, Kirtana Kumar and Arundhati Raja. She teaches theatre to young adults and children across Bangalore through Jagriti and Ranga Shankara. When not doing theatre, she works on Experimenta, a festival of moving image art in India. In the past, Anuja has worked as a programme officer at India Foundation for the Arts, in film research, curating, writing and teaching cinema. Recently, she was an artist-in-residence at Art Lab Gnesta, Sweden, where she wrote Lady Anandi.

You can follow Anuja on her Facebook page, Drama Queen, and on her website: www.drama-queen.in.

 

Staging Our Histories Returns in 2016

The co-organizers of Staging Our Histories are pleased to announce that histories off the page will once again be taking the stage in 2016!

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In October 2016, Staging Our Histories comes to Goderich, Ontario on Lake Huron.

Future editions of Staging Our Histories will take place in new locations across the world, providing a platform for new and established local artists to present their diverse perspectives on unwritten histories. Our next live performance event and film screening will be the weekend of October 15th, in Goderich, Ontario. Thank you to our venues, the Livery theatre and the Huron County Museum, as well as the Huron Arts and Heritage Network for acting as our local partners in 2016.

In addition to returning artists from 2015, we’ll be welcoming original submissions from new dancers, storytellers, poets, playwrights, and filmmakers, especially those exploring the lesser known histories and communities of rural Ontario. Look for our call for submissions and further details about this year’s theme in the coming days! Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for up-to-the-minute updates and news about other exciting projects near you that take history off the page.

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Artists talkback at the 2015 Staging Our Histories at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

Questions about this year’s event? Contact us at staginghistories@gmail.com

7 Reasons to Experience History off the Page

Although math is not her strong suit, Co-Director Sinead Cox lists her top seven reasons to snag tickets for History (a)Live: 

ONE: THE TALENT                                                                                  StaginOurHistories

Our performers are multi-talented artists, storytellers, poets and filmmakers, and they actually constitute eight great reasons to be at the National Arts Centre on May 31st. Staging Our Histories brings this group of diverse amateur and professional artists together in the same room for the first (and probably only) time. Their artistic voices and perspectives on history are entirely original and distinct, but their pieces complement each other by asking similar questions about identity, memory and legacy.

TWO: IT’S NOT THE HISTORY YOU READ IN SCHOOL

Our organizers are interested in how stories and memories change across different mediums, and how performance can be a powerful platform for unwritten or unrecorded histories. Each of the seven histories presented on stage on May 31st is personal and revelatory, and interrogates how we share and forget the past on and off the page.

THREE: IT’S A PARTY

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Ticket-holders for Staging Our Histories are invited to a reception following the performances. There will be refreshments, snacks, and a chance to mingle with the performers and organizers.

FOUR: YOU CAN BE PART OF HISTORY

Staging Our Histories is a conversation, not a lecture. The evening’s discussion of performative histories will extend beyond the stage, as host Adrian Harewood moderates talkbacks between the artists and the audience. We hope theatre-lovers, students, historians, and just about everyone else, will be inspired by the convergence of history and performance, as we continue to be.

FIVE: THERE’S A CHANCE TO GET IN FOR FREE!

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You can win tickets to Staging Our Histories, and a copy of History, Memory, Performance, just by tweeting your favourite history experience to @stagehist with the contest hashtag #mylivehistory. 

SIX: RIGHT TIME, RIGHT PLACE

Staging Our Histories happens at ‘Canada’s Stage’, the National Arts Centre, in lovely downtown Ottawa. It’s conveniently close if you’re in town that week to attend the 2015 Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Ottawa, or you’re taking part in the Walk for Reconciliation, also on May 31st.

SEVEN: THE (HISTORY) A(LIVE) TEAM

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Once again, this is six good reasons for the price of one. The Staging Our Histories organizers are volunteers motivated by the desire to expand public access to unconventional and thought-provoking histories. The co-directors and core volunteers are all recent grads or current students of Carleton University’s history program; they’re also keen, passionate about history, and a lot of fun to hang out with– so look for us at the reception after the show.

If you care to join us for a night of extraordinary performances, you can GET TICKETS NOW at the NAC’s box office.

Need another reason? Contact the co-directors with any questions at staginghistories@gmail.com!

#MyLiveHistory: Tweet your kind of history, Win Free Tickets

WIN by sharing your favourite experiences of history off the page!

Become a #twitterstorian and tweet original photos or video links of your favourite way to  experience history a(live) to @StageHist with the contest hashtag #mylivehistory, before May 29th.

Contest Details: Win FREE tickets to Staging our Histories & a copy of new book History, Memory, Performance

Check out examples from our co-directors!

Tickets on Sale NOW!

Get tickets for the first-ever Staging Our Histories today! 

May 31st, 7:30 pm                       National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage

CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS via Ticketmaster 

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We’re pleased to announce that you can now reserve your seat at the National Arts Centre’s Fourth stage to experience ten talented artists embodying the past and its implications in the present through storytelling, film, theatre and poetry. The evening will additionally feature talk-backs between audience and artists moderated by host Adrian Harewood.

Be a part of our first year and participate in a dialogue regarding how history is told and how it is received. Our audience is a significant and valued part of an interactive, one-of-a-kind evening of live performances and conversation. A ticket to Staging Our Histories grants you the chance to see eight extraordinary works, an opportunity to address the artists, and an invitation to an end-of-the-night reception at the National Arts Centre.

Staging Our Histories’ Venue & a First Glimpse at our Poster!

Our co-directors are pleased to announce that the very first Staging Our Histories will take place at the National Arts Centre‘s Fourth Stage, 53 Elgin St, Ottawa at 7:30pm.  After the evening’s performances and interactive talk-backs with the audience moderated by host Adrian Harewood a short reception will follow in the same location.

We’d like to extend our gratitude to Tannis Price for collaborating with co-director Arpita Bajpeyi on our eye-catching poster.

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Carol Jones

http://caroljonesdanse.blogspot.ca/

Formée en danse et jeu, spécialiste en percussions corporelles, Carol Jones œuvre dans le milieu artistique depuis plus d’une vingtaine d’années.  La danse l’a menée au théâtre.  Diplômée à la maîtrise en théâtre, elle joue, danse et choréthéâtrographie. On l’a vue tant sur scène (Free, Pour filles de couleur,  Angélique); à la télé (Chez Denise, Les dames de cœur, Watatatow, 19-2) qu’au cinéma (Le Matou, Louis 19, Je me souviens. La femme allongée).

Fille d’un jazzman (batterie), nourrie par les rythmes africains, Carol développe sa technique de percussions corporelles, associant diverses danses percussives et rythmes de la batterie, qu’elle enseigne dans diverses écoles (UQAM, Rencontre Théâtre Ados, etc.). Également, elle collabore à des productions musicales comme celles de l’Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal.

Dans le cadre de l’activité « Qui a mis le feu à Montréal le 10 avril 1734? » initiée par le Centre d’Histoire de Montréal, elle crée le personnage Angélique qu’elle présente depuis 2007 dans les écoles et les bibliothèques.  Ainsi, chaque année elle amène quelques deux cents élèves à répondre, sous forme théâtrale, à la question. Tout récemment, le projet s’est mérité un Prix d’Excellence décerné par l’Association Québécoise des Interprètes du Patrimoine.

En 2010, avec l’aide du Conseil des Arts du Canada et de l’Unesco, elle présentait Free à la Salle Carpe diem. Cette pièce entièrement exprimée en percussions corporelles pose un regard sur le trafic humain contemporain. Son art la fait voyager : Brésil, Turquie, Trois-Rivières, Sierra Leone, etc. où elle participe à maints événements et festivals. En 2015, suite à une résidence de création au Collège Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes, Free prendra l’affiche au Théâtre de la Providence, salle annexée à ce même Collège.

Actuellement étudiante à l’American Dance Therapy Association, Carol achève une maîtrise en danse thérapie.


Trained in dance and theatre, and a specialist in corporeal percussion, Carol Jones has been active in the artistic field for over 20 years. Dance  led her to theatre. With a Master’s in theatre, she acts, dances and choreographs. She has been seen on stage (Free, Pour filles de couleur,  Angélique); on television (Chez Denise, Les dames de cœur, Watatatow, 19-2) and cinéma (Le Matou, Louis 19, Je me souviens. La femme allongée).

Daughter of a jazzman (drummer), inspired by African rhythms, Carol develops her corporeal percussion, associating diverse percussive dances and drum rhythms, which she teaches in various schools (UQAM, Rencontre Théâtre Ados, etc.). She also collaborates on musical productions such as the Greater Montreal Metropolitan Orchestra.

Within the framework of the activity “Qui a mis le feu à Montréal le 10 avril 1734?” (who set fire to Montreal the 10th of April 1734?) initiated by the Montreal History Center, she created the Angélique character, whom she has presented since 2007 in schools and libraries. Therefore, each year, she gets two hundred students to respond, in theatrical form, to this question. Quite recently, the project earned the Prix d’Excellence (excellence prize) given by the Association Québécoise des Interprètes du Patrimoine (Quebec Association of Heritage Interpreters).

In 2010, with the help of the National Council of the Arts of Canada and UNESCO, she presented FREE at the Carpe Diem Hall. This piece, entirely expressed in corporeal percussions, focuses on contemporary human trafficking. Her art makes her travel: Brazil, Turkey, Trois-Rivières, Sierra Leone, etc., where she takes part in many events and festivals. In 2015, after a residency at the Collège Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes, FREE will be presented at the Théâtre de la Providence, a hall annexed to this same College.

Currently a student at the American Dance Therapy Association, Carol is completing a Master’s in Dance Therapy.

 

Elise Gauthier

http://delireszeliens.blogspot.ca/p/my-ottawa-moi.html

Ottawastiltunion.ca

Elise Gauthier is a bilingual, multidisciplinary creator with deep roots in her native Ottawa. She’s best known as a theatre performer, and is a core member of the Ottawa Stilt Union, a colingual theatre company using various forms of physical expression to tell stories. She also writes, directs and teaches in various capacities. When not telling stories through her art, Elise tells stories as a tour guide with the Haunted Walk of Ottawa. She’s been a tour guide in Ottawa for the past ten years, and has developed an intense love for her city, inspiring her series of bilingual poems: My Ottawa à moi. One of the joys of being a tour guide is making history come alive for the visitors, out of the history books and into the streets. The poems, and the videos that were eventually produced to accompany the poetry, are the perfect way to combine Elise’s identity as an artist to her life as a tour guide. Follow Elise on Twitter: @OttawaZel