Saturday, October 29, 2016

Interview: WhyNot Theatre Presents the Beautiful and Innovative Like Mother/Like Daughter

Ravi Jain has got to be one of the busiest guys working in theatre these days.  He's remounting A BRIMFUL OF ASHA, his run-away hit about his relationship with his mother.  He and his mom open at Soulpepper later this week.

He's also helmed a fascinating piece of devised theatre ending its far-too short run at 918 Bathurst Street tonight, where mothers and daughters get together around a dining room table, and talk about their relationship, their histories both apart and together, and the impact of that relationship on their lives.

Full, rich, and fascinating, right?

Last Saturday afternoon, I spoke with two of the participants in the project, daughter, Ximena Huiza and mother, Isabel Iribarren about what drew them to the project, and about the process of creating the production.

Ximena is a theatre practitioner; an actor and creator.  Since graduating from the theatre program at Fanshawe five years ago she's worked in Toronto with Aluna Theatre. WhyNot posted on the TAPA blog, asking for mothers and daughters, where one half of the pair were born outside Canada.

You can tell Ximena and Isabel are related, not only from their features, but from their personalities and the way they use their bodies and hands when they talk. They're both lively, warm, sharp, engaged, passionate, smart: we talked for close to an hour and the time flew by.

Isabel and Ximena came from Venezula with their family, Isabel's second husband and younger son from her second marriage, Jesus, now 13.  Ximena started her theatre program when they got here.

When she graduated, she lived at home for 6 months. 'We can't live together!  We fight too much!"

Isabel went back to school also: a schoolteacher with a business degree, she went to George Brown here and got a degree in Early Childhood Education when she arrived in Canada.

As we spoke, I thought of the Chilean women I worked with at a formalwear rental shop in Winnipeg, while I was in university.  All of those women had been teachers in Chile:  in Winnipeg, they were doing laundry and steam-pressing suits in the back of the store. My own immigrant grandmother worked in a candy factory.  I'm glad Isabel is teaching.

I ask them how they are alike:  Ximena says, "Our personalities are so similar! We both want the last word."

How are they different?   At 27, Ximena is the oldest childless woman in her family in four generations.    Does she want children?  She looks at her mom.  They both laugh.  She sighs.  "Eventually, yes.  Not now!"

Her older sister is married with kids and living in the US.  So Isabel has those grandchildren moms seem to want. "Oh yes!  it's wonderful."

What is her best childhood memory?  "On Margarita Island, (off the coast of Venezula) where we used to go for summer vacations."

Their biggest worry? A pause.  We have a long conversation about both women's broken relationship with their biological fathers.  Neither sees or speaks to that man in their life.

We sit in silence.  I think of my own Dad and our mutual admiration society, how much we adored each other.  Last Saturday would have been his 81st birthday. Even though he's gone, I still know I have his love.  Not having that in life is an inconceivable suffering to me. The pain of it knocked all of us on our heels, reeling in the  silence of that void.

Ximena says, "Here, I am Canadian.  But I tell my friends, if you want to under stand ma vida loca, you have to meet my mother. They you'll know who I am."

We stop.  We hug.  They go back to Ravi and the other moms and daughters to continue to prepare the show.

I saw Like Mother/Like Daughter last night with a girlfriend.  I would love to have gone with my own mom, but she's in Winnipeg, and I'm not sure she could do the stairs these days.

It's beautiful:  delicate, generous, inspiring, warm, funny, and in moments, heart-rending.  Just like going home to mom.

After the show, we are invited to join the performers around a dinner table to share food and talk about the experience of being there, of being mothers and daughters.  Connection, community, catharsis:  these are some of the best things theatre can bring and this show offers all of them.

Please bring this back!

WhyNot Theatre in collaboration with Complicite Theatre presents Like Mother/Like Daughter until October 30th at 918 Bathurst Street:

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