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Posted on 2007.07.15 at 16:47
On July 16th at 8 a.m. Toronto time, 2 p.m. Cape Town time, and times and locations in between, Ashley participants will be on the Common Ground Forum discussing Ashley with each other for two hours. Let's see what happens!

In the meantime, here are four Ashleys for you to "meet":

Ashley Toronto/Regina/Nova Scotia/UK is:
Heather Annis, Jorge Morejon, nisha ahuja, Jennifer Dick, Jessica Didyk, Nicci Sawyer
Dramaturg: Judith Rudakoff

Ashley loves the feeling of protection in the forest
Ashley once wrote an essay about drowning when s/he fell in love
Ashley has a phobia of tiny insects crawling in the ear when sleeping
Ashley hates public transit but spends many hours on it
Ashley has never been to the town/city/place Ashley was born in.
Ashley knows a lot of “seemingly” useless facts
Ashley feels instantly better when looking at bright colors
Ashley is scared of the sound of the wind.
Ashley does not have a passport.
Ashley is away from her/his family.
Ashley has an amazing ability to phase out all voices and sound at will
Ashley often dreams of saving someone.
Ashley is the age you are.
Ashley sometimes sees/hears ghosts or spirits
Ashley finished one university degree
Ashley broke a limb when s/he was fifteen

Ashley Canada/Iran is:
Vida Ghahremani, Sanaz Rasouli, Sina Gilani,Siavash Shabanpour)
Dramaturg: Judith Rudakoff with Intern Andy Cheng

• Ashley can make a life anywhere.
• Ashley can’t remember his/her childhood.
• Ashley does not have a birth certificate.
• Ashley often dreams of a fire place.
• Ashley hates public transit (but spends many hours everyday on it), and also hates driving.
• Ashley is not a virgin
• Ashley is scared of the sound of the wind
• Ashley finished high school
• Ashley believes in God.
• Ashley believes in ghosts
• Ashley wonders what will happen to him/her after she/he dies.
• Ashley always makes friends with strangers.
• Ashley loves food and eats even when she/he is not hungry.
• Ashley loves dogs.
• Ashley’s girl/boyfriend cheated on him/her
• Ashley came from a rural setting
• Ashley worries about miscommunication
• Ashley loves the energy of dawn
• Ashley is the same age YOU are

Ashley Kitchener/Waterloo is:
Participants: Narsa Chelluri,Monika Chmiel,Calla Churchward,Carina Gaspar,David Lam,Montgomery Martin,Ciarán Myers,Wes Rowley,Monica Skorupski,Karen So
Dramaturg: Andy Houston

Ashley takes advantage of people.
Ashley takes pills at breakfast.
Ashley found out something about her parents.
Ashley can't pronounce her father's name.
Ashley was in a car accident.
Ashley can make a life anywhere.
Ashley is away from her family.
Ashley doesn't want to have sex ... yet.
Ashley likes to walk.
Ashley has a button from each city she has visited.
Ashley doesn’t talk to his/ her friends from high school anymore.
Ashley dreams of owning a Persian cat with a smushed in face
Ashley sometimes thinks that s/he'd be better off dead
Ashley dreams of being a bird.
Ashley loves his/her grandma's cooking.
Ashley has run away, only once.
Ashley has 100 bucks in her/his bank account.

Ashley Cape Town is:
Jackie Maanyapelo, Mfundo Tshazibane, Faniswa Yisa,Jennie Reznek
Dramaturgs: Judith Rudakoff and Mark Fleishman

• Ashley has a spiritual belief system but doesn’t belong to an organized religion.
• Ashley has no pets.
• Ashley is not in a committed relationship.
• Ashley was born in Johannesburg.
• Ashley passed matric (graduated from High School).
• Ashley has been in jail, but only once.
• Ashley has traveled overseas.
• Ashley likes to run.
• Ashley likes South African soap operas.
• Ashley speaks three languages.
• Ashley needs to have a tooth cavity filled.
• Ashley likes the colour red though wears black more often.
• Ashley has a scar that cannot be seen.
• Ashley is habitually late.
• Ashley is afraid of heights.
• Ashley doesn’t like the sun.
• Ashley hates Americans (USA).
• Ashley has not been tested for HIV recently.


terra incognita

Posted on 2007.06.06 at 09:02

From June 2nd to July 7th I’m facilitating a workshop with Soheil Parsa and Modern Times Stage Company in Toronto. We are working with a group who share a strong commitment to creating performance that is inspired by personal experience. Some of the participants are professionals and others are students.

Modern Times Stage Company’s Artistic Director Soheil Parsa came to Canada from his native Iran twenty five years ago. He continues to evolve and produce work that blends Persian traditions with western influences. His work presents a syncretized whole, where each part is of equal importance.

Other than Canada's First People and First Nations, Canadians are all “from somewhere else”. In the Common Ground Forum, many of our participants have been exploring perception of Otherness and the insensitivity people sometimes manifest towards difference. Canadians’ can trace diasporic routes throughout the world, sometimes only as far back as our histories of holocaust permit us and sometimes back as far as the land we come from has existed.

For some, the world is a large diverse place. For others, those who by choice or by accident lived boundaried, bordered existences, the world is only as big, only as varied as their small enclave.

A few years ago, during one of my theatre workshops at Cuba’s Teatro Escambray, at their residential collective high in the remote Escambray Mountain Range at the centre of the island, I had a conversation in Spanish with the eight year old granddaughter of one of the actors. She overheard me speaking in English with a Canadian participant and asked me, in all innocence, “Judith, where did you learn your English.” At first I didn’t understand and said, “Diana, I learned my English like you learned your Spanish: from my parents.”

Diana looked at me somewhat quizzically and continued: “But Judith, don’t your parents speak Spanish?”

And then I had one of those “aha” moments where you realize how narrow your gaze has been. I understood that for eight year old Diana, whose world consisted solely of her village and the collective where her grandparents lived nearby, the whole world spoke Spanish. My heavily accented and faulty Spanish notwithstanding, for Diana it was normal that I spoke The Language of the World and only spoke English when I spoke with my Canadian colleagues. I never did convince her that I learned English first and spoke English at home.

One of our Modern Times/Common Plants workshop members, Sanaz, was born in Iran and moved with her family to Japan before emigrating to Canada. She speaks Farsi, Japanese and flawless English. She tells the story (and I hope she will tell it in greater detail on the Common Ground Forum) of a time when she was living in Japan and was beset by Japanese people who approached her, widening their eyes with their fingers, asking her why her eyes were soooo large.

We learn to see the world according to the boundaries we impose/have imposed upon us.

For some, the moment when a window flies open at an unexpected moment to show you a world you never imagined is thrilling.

For others, it’s terrifying.

Even so, standing and looking through that open window into terra incognita, would you choose to crawl through the open frame? Did you? Will you?



Posted on 2007.05.01 at 14:02
I've had this pair of shoes for about six or seven years. They're not very pretty and those who know me well know that I do love a pair of pretty shoes. Nevertheless, these shoes are a thing of beauty.

There are stories about falling into the salt water of The Heads at Knysna in South Africa and hoping I hadn't killed a seahorse; there are stories about barking dogs, skunk, Spieseloppen and tromping through the muddy paths of the Free City of Christiania in the middle of Copenhagen; there are stories about slippery sidewalks in London and airports where you have to run; there are stories about the ring Road in Iqaluit when it's raining no snowing no sleeting no raining; there are stories about sandy dunes and rocky hills; there are stories about drying out shoes under a radiator and there are stories about three pairs of socks packed inside one shoe; there are stories about walking for seven hours on cobble stones down the longest pedestrian shopping street in the world, there are stories about El Boulevard in Cienfuegos, Cuba, there are stories about reclaiming the garden from the renovators.

These shoes are a peculiar representation of "home" for me. They are familiar, but it's more than that. They have been a constant in a lot of unknown and often challenging places. But it's not that either. They've given me balance. Maybe that's it: they've given me a way to stand in places where I was unsure of where to step, how to step, sometimes even what I was going to step into.

Parenthetical observation: On the subway this morning, a tall rather large man entered the subway car and was swaggering his way down to the end seats. He stopped precipitously in front of a young woman, and looked down at her from his vantage point. She was clearly startled by this show of attention. The man kept staring at her and then he pointed at her feet. She (and I, sitting next to her) were starting to get nervous.

"Your shoelace is untied," he said and then moved on down the car. The woman somewhat sheepishly leaned over and fixed it.

Nice moment, eh?


The Snack, a snack

Posted on 2007.04.25 at 16:43

Where I grew up, Montreal, Quebec, we sometimes gave into comfort food cravings and had poutine (french fries or chips with melted cheese curds and brown gravy). Yes, it sounds gross. But is is sooooo good when it's made right. And of course you need to eat it pretty darn fast because, well, because it congeals when it cools off.

In Iqaluit there was a great diner style restaurant called The Snack that was run by Quebecois and was open twenty four hours a day. During blizzards, they'd still deliver take out food by snowmobile. When we were in Iqaluit October 2006, we headed to The Snack for poutine and cola (what else would you wash down poutine with???) It was ridiculously satisfying.

Early in 2007 The Snack burned to the ground. RIP The Snack. Hopefully the owners, who've had the place burn down before, will re-build.

Comfort food and its associations with home is, I suppose, a whole other blog.

But for now,since I seem to be thinking of Montreal, for anyone familiar with the city (and not just it's stellar culinary masterpieces and haute cuisine...) I'll cite: Steamies (steamed hot dogs. If you got them at the old Montreal Forum where the Montreal Canadiens played hockey on home ice you'd sometimes get them with a nice paper napkin somehow sandwiched in between the bun and the mustard/relish); Triple baggers, best from a take out stand--can't remember its name--under the overpass in Verdun (These are/were french fries that were so--no positive way to spin it--greasy that they had to be triple bagged to keep the oil from soaking right through the paper); Smoked meat from either the highly hyped Schwartz's or according to my own preference, from The Main directly across the street from Schwartz's, both ensconced on la rue St Laurent.

You know, I'm not sure why I'm nostalgic about poutine.


"I don't look like my name"

Posted on 2007.03.26 at 08:44

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I found this toy in a bargain bin at a dollar store in Toronto. It's part of a series of little bouncing balls with three dimensional representations of "common" animals inside. Apparently who ever painted these animals was from a country where rabbits are strange and unknown creatures. This little bunny has been painted with what look alot like zebra stripes, but in yellow and black. Or are they tiger stripes. In the bin, I also found a rhinoceros with horizontal iridescent stripes running the length of its body.

I thought immediately of the topic and discussion on the Common Ground Forum called "I don't look like my name" and where some of the Common Plants participants are discussing other people's perception of who they are based on assumptions, categorizations, labelling and generalizations.

The toys also brought to mind how the work we are doing on Common Plants is giving us all ways and means to explore and respond creatively to both commonality and diversity. We are also constantly experiencing how commonality and diversity intersect at unexpected points. These intersections bring challenge and they bring new ways of looking at what can become staid and stale. From these points of intersection our participants sometimes choose to continue on the same path and other times, their journeys diverge again, but with the knowledge gained from the intersection. The work that results comes from these cross pollinations, these moments of shared experience.

In April, Mfundo Tshazibane, one of the Artist participants in South Africa will travel to his home (in Xhosa, his native language, "home" translates to English as "where your umbilical chord is buried"). In July, Jolene Arreak, one of the Artist participants in Nunavut, will travel to her home, Pond Inlet. They will document their journey with Photobiographies (see the current Photobiography page for examples of Common Plants' Youth Participants work on the early stages of this part of the CP project) and they will chronicle their observations and experiences in a phase of CP we are calling "Writing Home".

During July and August, CP will be working with artists to begin a collaboratively created performance as a creative response to the work already undertaken. Using the website as a venue, we will then showcase the short site specific plays as a cycle to be viewed in random order. More on this as it develops.

And who knows...maybe somewhere in the high North or the deep South we might just find a striped rabbit. Or a silvery banded rhino.



Posted on 2007.03.17 at 19:18
I went to several shows this weekend. Sometimes the audience is the main attraction. Comments overheard are always worth the price of admission. I also enjoy watching the watchers...observing the audience.

There was a sign on the entry door to one venue that proclaimed "If you leave the theatre during the performance you will not be allowed to re enter the theatre". A woman ahead of me entering the theatre asked the House Manager: " If I have to use the Ladies Room during Intermission does that mean I can't see Act Two?" I have to remind myself that not everyone lives, eats and breathes performing arts and that it's a good thing when inexperienced spectators attend a performance. Patience, I'm frequently told, is a virtue.

I saw Nightwood Theatre's production of "The Danish Play" by Sonya Mills, a much lauded production with a multiplicity of narrative lines that unravel over two hours and forty minutes: curiously complicated without being complex.

After Intermission ("Yes, you can go to the toilet and still see the second act") as I was heading back to my seat, I overheard a gentleman ask his companion "How exactly do the Danes make money?" Gee. I wish I could have dawdled and eavesdropped on the answer, but the crowd was moving on and so did I.

I had a lovely conversation with the articulate, theatre savvy gentleman sitting to the right of me, an actor who also must work a "day job" as a telemarketer to make ends meet,though he was clearly not an emerging artist. This made me sad.

There was also something peculiar about entering the theatre at 2 o'clock in the afternoon from a streetscape blanketed with last night's silly spring snow storm and leaving the theatre at 4:45 p.m. to be greeted with blinding sunlight and streets almost dry. CapeTonians always talk about how their weather changes every fifteen minutes. And in Iqaluit a blizzard can appear in the wink of an eye. In Toronto, we clearly have a more temperate climate, but the unpredictability always ensures surprises.

Weather and the audience. I'm discussing the weather and the audience instead of the play.



The Iqaluit Phone Book

Posted on 2007.02.19 at 14:10

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Normally i don't pay much attention to this manufactured holiday or the fabricated saint it is named after.

Tonight, however, Andy and Myles and I will be joining Jolene Arreak and some friends at the Storehouse . This is the only pub in town and other than at the Legion, it's the only place where people can purchase alcholic beverages without also buying food. The Storehouse is located at the Frobisher Inn...the "highrise" in Iqaluit. The Frob has up to eight stories in certain wings of the complex and also houses a community swimming pool, the town's movie theatre and a pharmacy. Oh, and a high end restaurant which boasts such delicacies as caribou with blueberry sauce, grilled Arctic Char. And pizza.

In addition to Valentine's Day celebrations at the Frob, it's also the once weekly Wing Night at the Storehouse.

I like to go to the Storehouse because it's where most of the carvers in town bring their own work to sell directly to the buyer rather than through a retail outlet.

Yesterday, as we walked by the Front Desk, we overhead a clerk telling someone that all the rooms at the hotel were booked for tonight, so I'm guessing that, like the one and only time I ever stayed at this hotel, there will be lots of people staying overnight after the festivities. I can't say I enjoyed my few nights at the Frob, in particular not the night when there was a domestic altercation in the room next to me and from midnight till 4 am. my repeated calls to the Front Desk had little effect. I heard, over and over, a man throwing a woman agains the very thin walls as she wailed in Inuktitut and occasionally spoke one English word: "NO". The fight spilled over into the corridor and she starting being thrown agains the walls of the hallways and my door. Eventually, when the Front Desk attendant said to me, "well ma'am what exactly do you want us to do? Call the RCMP?" I responded, "If you don't, then I will."

They finally sent Security up to the room and I was told the next morning that the couple had been separated, in different rooms on different floors and that they would be fine in the morning.

I was upset, but got even more so, when the person I was talking to, in an attempt to placate me, said, "Don't worry. We'll ensure that there are only white people in the room next to you tonight."

And how does one respond or react to that comment? With shock? With anger?

From that time onwards, and I've been back to Iqaluit four more times since then, I do not stay at the Frobisher Inn.



Posted on 2007.02.12 at 20:02
after a series of typically hellish series of flights from Toronto through Ottawa to Iqaluit (why oh WHY is Air Canada so cavalier with its "rules" and standard practices???) we arrived, had a quick lunch and booted it over to the High School. THe ten students we worked with were immediately engaged, did exemplary work with the Lomograms and we gave them each a disposable camera with a series of prompts to shoot.

TOnight, after some food here at the B&B we went to the Frobisher Inn to trawl for art. Andy bought a narwahl made of stone from Cape Dorset. It flows. It has movement. Beautiful.

We came home by taxi, as usual (five bucks a person) and when we got out of the cab, I tripped over something in the snow.

"What's that?"

"I don't know. It looks like a jawbone."

"Ya...with teeth attached."

I seriously considered taking it inside but Myles and Andy Cheng convinced me that it was left over from a dog's dinner.

Yes. Well. It was dark out and I've been up since 3 a.m.




Posted on 2007.01.15 at 11:21

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finding beauty in unlikely places, this storage tank on the outskirts of Iqaluit is much more than what it is meant to be. We head back to Iqaluit in mid February for more work with the students at Inuksuk High School. Here in Toronto we're having a "bad weather day" with freezing rain and a dusting of snow to make it realllly slippery. In Iqaluit this past week, with windchill factored in, it's been well below 45 celcius.

Can't wait to go back!!!

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