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Powerful performance highlights plight of immigrant women

By John Olsthoorn on February 18, 2015



Theatre, like art, is the working out of conflict, and can motivate, educate, inspire, and entertain. It can also move you to a new place, a new understanding, for the audience and performers alike.

The New Country New Conflicts theatre performance put on recently by one of AOE Arts Council’s Art Place projects deals with alienation and the plight facing immigrant women in Ottawa. It explores everyday trials and tribulations newcomers to Canada face. Challenges at the employment office, in getting directions on the street and on public transit, and even between and among members of the immigrant communities.

The short 30 minute play was led by Forum theatre artist Naomi Tessler who over a two month period worked with a group of women at Immigrant Women Service Ottawa to put together scenarios based on their own experiences. Following the performance itself, scenes from the play were performed again; however, Tessler invited audience members to spontaneously step into any of the roles during the performance to see how their actions can change the course of events.

It didn’t take much to see the dramatically different outcomes, making you think about your own everyday interactions with fellow citizens and how the way you treat others can have such an impact on their lives. We often forget or are not aware of the challenges newcomers, particularly women, face in navigating life in a new country.

“This kind of performance falls under what is called Forum theatre,” Tessler explained. “It is a powerful tool to increase social awareness and leadership through actively rehearsing how to transform conflicts, build social justice and work towards social change.”

One of six projects funded by Art Place, an AOE Arts Council community engagement program, “New Country New Conflicts” will be showcased in a final performance on February 25, 2015, at the Art Place Showcase Night. The evening begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Gilberte Paquette Garden on the 6 floor of the Élisabeth Bruyère Hospital, 43 Bruyère St. The event is free and tickets are available by reservation only via Eventbrite.