Art Place 2016

Bridges Through Stories: Blog Post #1

Category: Art Place 2016 Naomi Tessler Written by Naomi Tessler / February 3, 2017
Naomi Tessler leads a forum theatre workshop

I am thrilled to share that the From the Roots Theatre Project I’m leading has had a deeply meaningful beginning at Immigrant Women Services Ottawa (IWSO)! This theatre project is catering to newcomer women and we’ve had two sessions thus far filled with movement and sound making, community building, image theatre and story-sharing, and participants are jumping right in.

While I look forward to our group growing in size, the intimate groups thus far have contributed to building some strong connections. Our first week, there were two women participating from Congo and it turns out that they are from the same village and they had never met at IWSO before. At the end of the session, one of these women expressed, “I’m so grateful for this group and so happy to make a new friend from home,” to which the other woman replied “I didn’t just meet a friend-I’ve met a sister!” This was a moving way to end our first workshop!

It’s my second Art Place artist residency at IWSO (click here to learn about my past project) and it’s wonderful to be working with them again! I’m thrilled that there is one participant who took part in the last project joining us this time as well. She acts as a bridge between the residencies and can support the other participants in feeling more comfortable with the theatre warm ups – like moving around like a monkey or making the sounds of a bee – that we’re exploring.

We’ve already begun some storytelling. I invited participants to share pieces of their experiences of coming to Canada, both verbally and non-verbally through images (tableaux). Our second workshop built bridges through stories between two of our participants as their experiences we’re quite similar. The exercise we were doing invited participants to interview each other and present their partner to the group. One woman was in tears as she presented her partner’s recent story of coming to Canada alone just one month ago from Saudi Arabia.  The exercise ended in hugs and a community of support was knit between all the women present.

IWSO wished to include newcomer girls in the project this time and to address intergenerational conflicts among newcomer families and communities. I have begun reaching out to Catholic Centre for Immigrants Ottawa (CCI Ottawa), which runs multiple groups for newcomer girls in the same building as IWSO, and look forward to partnering with them to bring the intergenerational portion of the project into action.

The participants are looking forward to the chance to work with youth and practice leading different theatre games and storytelling exercises.

There are some participants in our group who are not interested in performing, but I look forward to seeing if this shifts over the time we work together.

I feel grateful to be collaborating with such a lively and warm group of women and feel honoured to learn about their newcomer journeys and the roots they’ve created here in Canada.

We’re still looking for participants! Are you a new to Canada? Are you or someone you know, a young woman between the ages of 12 and 15? We want to hear your stories!  On Saturday March 4th & March 18th from 2pm-4pm there will be theatre and storytelling workshops for newcomer girls led by participants in the From the Roots Theatre Project. These workshops will give young women who are new to Canada a chance to inform the content of our play to make sure that it includes the perspectives and voices of youth.  Please share this flyer with your friends and networks and help us find participants to share their stories!

Thanks for sharing / Merci d’avoir partagé!

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