On Wednesday, May 17, 2017 From The Roots Theatre Project, in partnership with Immigrant Women Services Ottawa (IWSO), had our inaugural performances of our full play: Newcomer Roller Coaster. The actors had been preparing diligently, rehearsing for the past few months to get to this special day and with confidence, courage and togetherness, they were ready to share the play we had co-created with the audience, and excited for the audience to share their interventions with us!
Our first performances were fantastic and deeply impacted our audience members! The actors were amazing! They delivered their lines with ease, moved across the stage with purpose and the audiences responded with resonance–understanding and empathizing with the depth of the experiences our performance highlights. Newcomer Roller Coaster-our forum theatre play- presented the ongoing issues and lived experiences faced by the newcomer women and the newcomer girls that have taken part in From the Roots Theatre Project. We address issues of bullying in youth ESL classrooms, challenges in parent/teen relationships, the difficulty in obtaining employment due to not having ‘Canadian Experience’ and sadly, the overwhelming reality that so many newcomers face: accepting demeaning volunteer positions when one is a skilled and highly educated professional.
Our actors did a true service to the newcomer community in presenting these issues through theatre to the larger Ottawa community. Our play motivated our spectators to become spect-actors and join us onstage to intervene in the action of our play and rehearse making change! We witnessed audience members take the role of youth standing up for themselves and their peers in the ESL classroom and as teachers firmly or compassionately setting boundaries, reminding students that the classroom is a place of support and learning and bullying is unacceptable. We witnessed reparation of the parent/child relationship with audience members stepping in for the mother in the play and encouraging her daughter to share what was troubling her. We witnessed a spectactor take the role of the daughter and asking her mother for the support she needed. We witnessed spectactors challenge the boss when they asked about ‘Canadian Experience,’ and confidently expressing the value of their knowledge and skills.
We truly witnessed change in action and an inspiring rehearsal for what can be possible in our classrooms, workplaces and at home.
I’m thrilled to share that since our first performances on May 17 (2017), hosted by the Ottawa Public Library, From the Roots Theatre Project has performed for a newcomer girls group, an adult ESL class and has been invited to perform for several other newcomer groups throughout the month of June.
From The Roots Theatre Project has created an opportunity for newcomer women and girls to use theatre as a pathway to gaining self-confidence, self-empowerment and build upon their leadership and advocacy skills. It has opened the doors to build their theatre and storytelling skills and share their stories of their newcomer roller coaster rides in a safe and supportive community and now the chance to continue to share their stories with communities throughout Ottawa through our play. In performing Newcomer Roller Coaster to various communities, we are honoured to be witnessing how our play is inspiring newcomers and Canadians alike, to build the confidence to join us onstage and rehearse creating change.
As one audience member shared: “I was not expecting such a beautiful experience. Newcomer Roller Coaster highlighted many concerns we keep inside, by the end of the play I felt so empowered and so much relief.”
It’s been an honour partnering with IWSO again for this project.
Thank you to AOE Arts Council for making From The Roots Theatre Project possible!