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:

Saturday, October 1, 2016

For Jem Rolls: On the End of the Fringe and the Coming Winter

Dear Jem,
Only you
Could have written
With such insight and passion
About summer '16 on the road.
The permutations and the combinations
and the machinations
the money making
and the money losing
the worry
and the bitching
and the magic
and the pleasure and
the beauty
and the magic
and the
art and the joy and
the fun, fun, fun
until September rolls away...

One old grey, gloomy certainty
hangs over us all:
winter is coming.

We have survived other winters, you and I
In Winnipeg,
For the love of freezing!
I cherish my memories of you
wandering the streets of Fort Rouge
Talking to yourself like a madman
As you prepared for the inevitable
of seasons, and your next show.
I was just shivering over to Safeway or the MLCC.
No poetry was coursing through me,
Just thoughts of my next dinner
Or the week ahead at work.

The quotidian is not your metier,
All this fretting about ticket prices,
and board decisions
and un-lotteries,
and lousy, under-qualified reviewers
and whether or not
the clowns and the improvisors
and the re-mounters
Will inherit the circuit
Is just sound and fury
Signifying one sorry certainty:
The tour is over for another year.

Winter is coming: but spring will follow.

In eight months:
you'll be back,
a return as inevitable as robins
tender leaves and a warmer sun.

We're writers:
Nothing is going to shut us up,
 although we may
Spend the next few months indoors
in the zone of rumination and creation.
We need to really:
that new show won't write itself.
There will be another stage
and another audience
and more nights of
donning the motley
and going here and there:
So fret not:
There's only one Jem Rolls
and you must do
what you must do: write more poems.

Face it;
there's no point in worrying about money,
as my old dad often pointed out:
you're born owing the hospital
and you die owing the undertaker.

Sure five stars, a 300 seater and a sold-out run
in every town on the circuit
might make for a better winter someplace warm,
but you didn't think being a poet
was any way to get rich,
did you?

No one is getting rich out there:
We all know it.

We've done what we loved
with people we loved being with.
And on a good night, we put on a good show
people who spend their time off with us
enjoy themselves and give us $10 apiece.

I feel richer every time I get to do it.
For now I'll keep daily grinding
my way out of (tour) debt and treasure
my horde of memories
of time well wasted
with you sorry lot
on the road.

Sometimes the stars align
(and no, not the ones in the papers
on top of the reviews)
and you go home in September
ahead and not behind
with the bank and the backers.

Sometimes not.

Forget about money.

This was never about money.
It's a lottery.

Can you win a lottery?
Sure. We've both won CAFF.
And sometimes, you get that hit and the hold-over:
the dosh and the glory and the touch of envy.

The Fringe is about art and ideas and pleasure.
It is about intellectual freedom and being a free spirit
in a room full of free spirits being spirited together.

Uplift me
in the beer tent
and tell me of your travels
when next we meet.

The stars will align:
There will be more poetry,
More passion,
More pleasures
More warm, lovely summer nights.