This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into Ottawa’s theatre scene—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Jacqui Du Toit on the future of storytelling in Ottawa, or read posts from Bronwyn Steinberg on independent theatre, Pierre Antoine Lafon Simard on French theatre, or Cameron Bishop on community theatre.
Jacqui Du Toit is an award-winning, internationally celebrated storyteller from Kimberley, South Africa. Jacqui received the 2019 Prix Rideau Award for Outstanding Female Performance in Drowning Girls and an Outstanding Female Performance nomination for her role in Omnibus Bill. She created The Hottentot Venus – Untold, a monodrama nominated for best actress at the 2017 Rideau Awards and Capital Critics Awards. Jacqui has performed across Canada and the world. She serves on the Board of Directors of GCTC, Ottawa Storytellers and TACTICS theatre festival. Jacqui is the founder and director of 8thGeneration Storytelling Company and the Co-owner and Creative Director of The Origin Arts and Community Centre.
Apt613: What is the current landscape for storytellers in Ottawa?
Jacqui Du Toit: Like many other artistic practices that was once in person, we have gone virtual. The growth and expansion of the storytellers in Ottawa is very pleasing to see. If you are seeking an opportunity to share your story, whether as a beginner or a professional, I recommend that you connect with the Ottawa Storytellers, who have over the past few years, built a variety of platforms for you to explore and showcase your story. If you are seeking a mentor, there are tons of professional mentors to choose from and even an opportunity for you to create and develop your story to a more professional level.
If you care to make a prediction… Where is storytelling going in Ottawa in 2021?
It’s beautiful to witness how many storytellers have created different ways of sharing their stories now that it has gone virtual. Some are incorporating prerecorded video or puppets or even a different background. Personally for me there are so many different ways of sharing stories so when I sit with the question where is storytelling going, I have to ask myself what format of storytelling are we sitting with? If you mean oral traditional, then for me, there is no better time to connect with family like now and through the art of storytelling, especially with our children. After having run multiple workshops over the year with youth, I have witnessed such a great connection with family and friends in sharing stories when perhaps the space and time was not provided for them before.
Where in your wildest dreams could storytelling go in Ottawa your lifetime?
Storytelling is what makes the world go round and round. Playing with oral traditional, virtual, filming and livestreaming, there are so many options that one can choose from. Seeing how social media has also exploded with picture and video storytelling, who knows where it might lead.
In my eyes storytelling is the also the greatest trickster—it can be used for medicine or harm. All depends on your intention. So if your intention is to share stories that are traditional (that have been used as medicine for the soul from your ancestors) then go with that. Heal you and those who are willing to listen to help elevate where we are right now.
Storytelling can also be used as harm: sharing stories that have ill intentions, bringing fear instead of hope to the world will only make those who are willing to listen feel hopeless.
So where do I see storytelling going in Ottawa? I would like to see it elevating the world, because there has been no better time than now where we need those stories to help lift and elevate us during these times.
What is the best innovation to take place in storytelling since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?
In your home with your loved ones. Explore the beauty of the imagination and who knows what joy can be brought to your world.
Who is the future of storytelling in Ottawa?
Tell us something you wish somebody told you when you started your career in theatre.
Don’t fight your demons, embrace them. Everyone has light and dark, but we all like to pretend we are good and light. We all have moments of doubt and fear. Don’t run away from them. See them. Watch them. Love them. And you will become all that you want to be and more.
Back in 2015, Apartment613 took a look at the future of Ottawa across several different sectors. In 2021, we’re bringing the series back, asking experts, artists, and community leaders to shed some light on their local field or industry, as it stands now and where they think—or dream—it will go over the next few years. Every week we’ll profile a different cultural sector in Ottawa, leaving no niche unexplored—from social justice to theatre, bars to sports, to the future of the municipality and its natural environs. Keep an eye out for a new batch of posts every Tuesday on Apt613.ca.