Getting a play produced at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre is a tough nut to crack for a local playwright. Four playwrights getting four RMTC debuts simultaneously feels like nothing less than a game-changer.

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This article was published 6/5/2021 (205 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Getting a play produced at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre is a tough nut to crack for a local playwright. Four playwrights getting four RMTC debuts simultaneously feels like nothing less than a game-changer.

But that became a reality for four local artists behind Tiny Plays, Big Ideas, a set of four short works available online Friday via RMTC’s website. The show was originally set to be performed in person, promenade-style at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in November, before rising COVID-19 numbers in Manitoba scuttled those plans. The shows were moved to the RMTC mainstage where they could be safely filmed for home consumption.

Hugh Conacher photo</p><p>Jordan Sangalang in A Piece of Me</p>

Hugh Conacher photo

Jordan Sangalang in A Piece of Me

The theme of human rights remains in this four-show program.

THEATRE PREVIEW

Click to Expand

Tiny Plays, Big Ideas

  • Tickets (includes all four plays) are $20 at tickets.royalmtc.ca
  • Available from May 7 at 7:30 p.m. to May 23.

Where.Are.You.From. is a 14-minute piece by local playwright Primrose Madayag Knazan examining an exchange between a busker and a Filipina-Canadian woman centred on the loaded question of the title.

Actor-dancer-playwright Waawaate Fobister, an Anishinaabe from Grassy Narrows First Nation now residing in Winnipeg, presents Ode to RED Auntie, a 19-minute work inspired by the museum’s exhibit devoted to the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

A Piece of Me by deaf artist Jordan Sangalang, explores in 10 minutes the feelings of a deaf man who fathers a deaf son and resolves to prepare his child for a world not designed for them.

The Show by Liam Zarrillo is an 18-minute piece that centres on what happens when a performance art piece explodes in controversy, compelling an arts institution to try to mitigate the damage by placing one board member in the line of fire.

Liam Zarrillo and Kristian Jordan in The Show.</p></p>

Liam Zarrillo and Kristian Jordan in The Show.


Primrose Madayag Knazan, 46, can speak to the excitement of having RMTC produce one of her works after spending years at the fringe festival and being showcased under the auspices of smaller companies such as Sarasvati or Winnipeg Jewish Theatre.

Supplied photo.</p><p>Primrose Madayag Knazan is one of four artists behind Tiny Plays, Big Ideas.</p>

Supplied photo.

Primrose Madayag Knazan is one of four artists behind Tiny Plays, Big Ideas.

"I’m very excited," she says. "I would’ve been happy to do it at the CMHR, but I was also glad to have done it at MTC.

"Because that was the stage that I thought would never see one of my works. To actually be there as a commissioned playwright, it was just an honour to be able to be on that stage, which I thought was unreachable."

Her show Where.Are.You.From. is "based on a real-life interaction I had with a busker just outside of a store.

"He asked me where I was from. I said Winnipeg. He said ‘No, no, no, where are you really from?’

"Basically that question has always bothered me," Knazan says. "My parents are from the Philippines and I am Filipino, but that’s not where I’m from. I’m from here.

"So I started to talk about it with my husband and my kids and with other people about what happened and what that question means. It means something very different when you’re a person of colour.

"It was a subject that I’ve always wanted to write about it and I finally got the chance."

Hugh Conacher photo</p><p>Robb Paterson and Rochelle Kives in Where.Are.You.From. </p>

Hugh Conacher photo

Robb Paterson and Rochelle Kives in Where.Are.You.From.

Though it wasn’t performed at CMHR, the place left an imprint on her.

"Walking through the space and actually feeling the gravitas of the place, I wondered (will) the story fit there?" she says. "And really, it does. Because the question ‘Where are you from?’ is not just about human rights, it’s about existence and being equal to other people and feeling that inequality."


Two-spirited Waawaate Fobister, originally from Grassy Narrows First Nation, moved from Toronto to Winnipeg a few years ago, and despite being a Dora Award recipient for outstanding actor and play for 2009’s Agokwe, seemed to be flying under the radar of the local theatre scene.

SUPPLIED</p><p>Waawaate Fobister</p></p>

SUPPLIED

Waawaate Fobister

A solo performance of Fobister’s dance piece Omaagomaanin in September of 2019 at the Gas Station Performing Arts Centre was to have led to wider visibility — and a national tour in 2020 — before COVID-19 shattered that plan.

Fortunately, RMTC’s associate artistic director Audrey Dwyer had seen Omaagomaanin.

"I just got a call out of the blue from Audrey and (artistic director Kelly Thornton), Fobister says.

"I didn’t know if that they were aware I was here. And they asked me if I would be interested in having a meeting with them."

Waawaate Fobister in Ode to RED Auntie.</p>

Waawaate Fobister in Ode to RED Auntie.

That meeting took them to the museum, where Fobister found inspiration at an exhibit dedicated to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. It hit close to home.

"It really spoke to me," Fobister says. "I am a survivor of MMIWG because one of my aunties was one of those women. She helped raised me and everything, so I just wanted to do a tribute to her and to MMIW."

Fobister says the story remains difficult.

"She died a violent death. It’s hard to talk about," Fobister says. "But I’ve been wanting to do some sort of tribute to her for a long time, like for 10 years."

The 19-minute show was satisfying to create, but it won’t necessarily be the final word.

"I’d love to explore it more," Fobister says.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

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Randall King

Randall King
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In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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