Adapting to Crises: Global Responses by Playwrights, Performance Companies, and Protests
Friday, June 11, 2021 | 9:30 - 11:00
Live panel on Zoom; spoken in English. No ASL interpretation or translation will be offered for this event.
(CHAIR: SHELLY LIEBEMBUK) FELICIA CUCUTA, NAE HANASHIRO AVILA & ROBIN WHITTAKER
Diasporic resilience in Wajdi Mouawad’s pandemic performances
As Wadji Mouawad’s most famous tetralogy (Incendies, Littoral, Forêts, Ciels) has lent itself to generous readings in the field of migrant writing, Canadian and performance studies, I turn away from his well-established œuvre and focus instead on the corpus the artist created during the Covid-19 pandemic. Echoing the political and cultural realities Lebanon and its diaspora experienced in the aftermath of the Civil War, the explosions that shattered Beirut in August 2020 marked the diasporic voice in confinement of the Francophone artist born and raised in Lebanon. Through an analysis of Mouawad’s recent performances and mises-en-voix, I explore the ways in which this event challenged his approach of care ethics and diasporic resilience, from global community-building initiatives to concentrated diasporic efforts for his country of origin. Bringing together diaspora studies and care ethics through a hauntological framework, my paper argues that Mouawad’s artistic strategy to unsilence the present through his mises-en-voix as part of his pandemic ethics of care is in fact a ritual of unsilencing the past.
Felicia Cucuta is a PhD student in Romance Languages and Literatures (contemporary Francophone literature and theatre). She works on cultural and performance studies, as well as playwriting and the intersections of theatre and digital humanities.
Performing Crisis: Activism in Latin America during times of democratic transitions and global pandemic
NAE HANASHIRO ÁVILA
A large number of civic and political mobilizations have taken place in Latin America to reclaim citizenship rights in the midst of the current Covid-19 pandemic. This paper will focus on two feminist performances orchestrated by Chilean and Peruvian collectives, which emerged in the context of these mobilizations: “Hoy, hundimos el miedo” (Today We Sink Fear) by Las Tesis (Chile) and “Marea Roja. Ponte el alma” (Red Tide. Put On Your Soul) by Yuyachkani, Collera, and Warmikuna (Peru). Prior to a national referendum in which Chilean citizens decided whether they wanted a new Political Constitution, in a public display organized by Las Tesis hundreds of women walked through the streets of Valparaiso to the port, where they threw away copies of the Constitution. “Hoy, hundimos el miedo” anticipates the end of an era, marked by a political order which was brought about during the military dictatorship. A month later, in the context of protests against the impeachment of Peru’s former president Martín Vizcarra, fifty women formed a “red tide” which marched through the streets of Lima mourning the loss of those who fought to reclaim democracy. By discussing the notion of crisis, this paper will examine the ways in which these performances reflect on the crisis of democracy in the larger context of a global sanitary crisis. By considering how these performances deal with physical distancing and other limitations posed by sanitary restrictions, this paper will also explore how activism takes place in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nae Hanashiro is a PhD candidate in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at University of Toronto. Her dissertation project “Il/legible Acts: Feminist Resistance Through Performance in Chile and Peru” takes a transnational approach to analyze how feminist performances become platforms that bring new legibility to violence against women in the context of neoliberal democracies.
“On the Verge of Collapse”: Alumnae Theatre Company’s Century of Crises, Flexibility, and Resilience
ROBIN C. WHITTAKER
And here [Alumnae] had all this success. […] But then they move into this building and this whole wave of theatre all over the country starts and they’re like, “Oh, who are we going to be now?” […] And I thought, how terrifying that must have been. Me worrying about sales on this show is so small scale. […] And then they’re faced with Tarragon, Factory…. (PJ Hammond, Alumnae past-president)
If your theatre company were to last over 100 years, how many crises would it need to endure? Eight months after Toronto’s Alumnae Theatre Company produced their first play in February 1918, the city shut down theatres and other entertainments venues due to the second wave of the “Spanish Influenza” pandemic (“Fifty-five” 8). But the shutdown lasted only two weeks (Parkhurst 8) and in March 1919 Alumnae produced their second play, unaffected (at least from a production standpoint) by a scourge that would kill tens of millions worldwide.
As North America’s longest-running women-run theatre company, whose first 100 years are bookended by pandemics, Alumnae have endured a century’s worth of crises. This synchronous paper argues that we can learn much from the programming and management flexibility and resilience Alumnae have fashioned across these decades by refusing to professionalize. Extraordinarily bold management choices made by the women who run the nonprofessionalizing (or amateur) company have allowed them to weather two pandemics, two world wars, university politics, unpredictable building leases, municipal expropriation, and the emergence of a disciplining theatre profession. This paper focuses on one defining crisis from 1969 to 1972 when Toronto Hydro unexpectedly expropriated Alumnae’s building, a converted synagogue just south of the University of Toronto, making them theatre-less for a fourth time, “on the verge of collapse” (Alumnae Press Release), and forcing them to relocate at a moment when “alternative theatres” were transforming Toronto’s theatre ecology. From this synagogue to their new (and current) home in an historic firehall, Alumnae members learned much about municipal activism and participatory democracy while the City heard community members’ insistence that theatres, including nonprofessionalizing companies, were an asset to the city.
Alumnae. “The University Alumnae Dramatic Club acquires the Berkeley Street Firehall.” Press Release. Fall 1971.
“Fifty-five deaths from influenza and pneumonia.” Globe. 18 Oct 1918. 8.
Hammond, PJ. Interview with Robin C. Whittaker. 25 Oct 2017.
Parkhurst, E.R. “Music and the Drama.” Globe. 31 Oct 1918. 8.
Robin C. Whittaker is associate professor of drama at St. Thomas University. He is a playwright and director and has published broadly on Canadian theatre. He is co-creator of the verbatim play No White Picket Fence (Talonbooks 2019), editor of Hot Thespian Action: Ten Premiere Plays from Walterdale Playhouse (Athabasca UP 2008) and has written articles and chapters appearing in journals that include Theatre Research in Canada and Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film, and the collection Canadian Performance Histories and Historiographies (Playwrights Canada P 2017). His current research focuses on nonprofessionalizing theatre practices, including a monograph on Alumnae Theatre Company.