Above and interspersed in article: Scenes from Revealed by Fire
Playwright Judith Rudakoff, professor in York’s Department of Theatre, Faculty of Fine Arts, has played a crucial part in the making of a powerful dance-theatre production, Revealed by Fire, by acclaimed Canadian choreographer, dance artist and York alumna Lata Pada (MFA ’96).
On Nov. 9, the multimedia dance-theatre work began a six-city tour in India, which will end Nov. 29.
This inspiring autobiographical work is based on Pada’s own heartbreaking voyage through an agonizing calamity – the loss of her husband and two daughters in 1985 when a bomb caused the crash of Air-India Flight 182.
For Pada, Revealed by Fire is about the universal transformative process: When faced with catastrophic loss, there are two roads – to be destroyed by the fire or to allow it to reveal our hidden core strength and identity. Revealed by Fire has been described as the story of Pada’s triumphant, albeit painful, journey to reclaim her life.
Rudakoff, who teaches playwriting, developmental dramaturgy and contemporary Canadian theatre and coordinates the MFA program in playwriting at York, has blazed new frontiers in this striking multimedia collaboration that celebrates the heroism of a woman’s spirit, forged in unspeakable tragedy.
In the full-length contemporary production, Revealed by Fire, dance, visual images, music and text intersect to unveil a mythic journey of transformation.
The production enjoyed sold-out performances in Toronto in 2001, was featured in the National Arts Centre in Ottawa as part of the prestigious Canada Dance Festival, and successfully toured Canada and the United States in September 2003.
Rudakoff said her text work with Lata Pada moved her further toward the core of the piece “to find the words with which to express its quintessence. I found the key to some of the images while on a trans-Atlantic, overnight flight to London, England, in a semi-asleep state, having watched a video interview of Lata speaking about the Air-India tragedy the night before.
“I uncovered other images sitting under a Caribbean sun, awash in the salt spray of the ocean. Working with Lata to hone the text, to ensure it said exactly what she wanted it to say within the context of the work and working with her and with Timothy [composer Timothy Sullivan] to record the words brought this phase of development to fruition.”
Developing Revealed by Fire was an intensely challenging, rewarding journey for Rudakoff. “Nightmares, stomach aches, the intellectual and practical problem solving…it was all part of the creative process. And I think I can speak for all the artistic collaborators when I say that in order truly to enter into this work, we all moved into the fire and were tested by its strength. To approach it in any other way would have been dishonest and, ultimately, disrespectful.”
Everyone involved in the production, said Rudakoff, was able to work together to ensure that the piece reaches its potential as an artistic whole. “We’ve found new avenues of communication that draw from our varied disciplines, our banks of cultural imagery, our languages of personal mythology, and above all else, our abiding belief in both the universality that comes from and is rooted in the specificity of Lata Pada’s story as well as the relevance and meaning of that personal story and its ramifications in the world in which we all live.”
About Judith Rudakoff
As well as an accomplished playwright, Rudakoff (left) is a dramaturg, author and critic who has worked across Canada and internationally for more than 20 years. A former literary manager and resident dramaturg for Toronto Free Theatre, the Canadian Stage Company and Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto, she has worked with many professional theatre companies from Whitehorse, Yukon, to Charlottetown, PEI.
Rudakoff’s research and publications are primarily in the field of developmental dramaturgy, contemporary Canadian theatre and dance, and performance in Cuba and South Africa. Her publications include the books Fair Play: Conversations With Canadian Woman Playwrights (Simon & Pierre, 1989) and Dangerous Traditions: A Passe Muraille Anthology (Blizzard, 1992), as well as many articles in theatre magazines and academic journals. She is editor of the chapbook series Questionable Activities: Canadian Theatre Artists Interviewed by Canadian Theatre Students, published by Playwrights Union of Canada (2000). Her latest book, Between the Lines: The Process of Dramaturgy, co-authored with American dramaturg Lynn M. Thomson, was published by Playwrights Canada Press in 2002.
Not Having, a play by Rudakoff, was produced at Playwright’s Workshop, Montreal, and the Women in View Festival, Vancouver, and showcased at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. It was presented in Spanish translation as Sin Tener by Cuba’s Teatro Escambray, the first Canadian play to be professionally produced by a Cuban company in Cuba. Rudakoff’s play Rum and Cola, a Cuban cocktail with a twist, received honourable mention in the Herman Voaden National Playwriting Competition. She is currently working on “The Grove”, an adaptation of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard set in an isolated theatre artists’ colony in rural Cuba, and a forthcoming novel titled “All Inclusive”.
As one of two primary collaborators on Joyous City/Secret City, a joint project with colleagues at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, England, Rudakoff conceived and developed an innovative creative methodology for devising and dramaturging image theatre. As a result of this work, her process of applying the four elements to creative practice and her use of lomograms, she has been invited to give workshops in creative practice internationally for theatre, dance and visual artists. One of these workshops has led to ongoing involvement in a theatre outreach program in South Africa’s Langa Township near Cape Town.
In June 2001, she received LMDA’s Elliott Hayes Award for dramaturgy in recognition of her work as writer and dramaturg of Revealed by Fire.
A member of the faculty of York’s Theatre Department since 1989, Rudakoff has been honoured twice by York University for excellence in teaching: as the recipient of the first Faculty of Fine Arts Dean’s Teaching Award in 1998 and a University-wide Teaching Award the following year. She also holds the distinction of being voted Best University Professor in the annual Readers’ Poll of Toronto’s NOW magazine for three consecutive years, 1999 to 2001.
About Lata Pada
Lata Pada (right), who studied the Indian classical dance form Bharata Natyam, wove her own personal tragedy into expressive dance through Revealed by Fire. When it premiered in 2001, Canada’s leading dance critic, Michael Crabb, called it the most important dance production, in Ballet Tanz magazine.
In her dance career, Pada has performed more than 600 concerts, including a command performance for the President of India in 1992, and two extensive solo performance tours of North America including appearances at venues such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and The World Bank, Washington. She has performed at numerous prestigious, international festivals.
Pada is founder of the Mississauga-based Sampradaya Dance Academy and artistic director of Sampradaya Dance Creations. Her many recent honours include the 1995 Mississauga Arts Award for Dance, the 2000 New Pioneers Arts Award, the Bharathi Kala Manram Performing Arts Award and the Distinguished Artist Award by Kannada Sangha.