Theatre @ York launches its 2017-18 season with Post National, a new work devised by students under the mentorship of an international collaboration between UK-based artist Deborah Pearson and Volcano, a Toronto-based theatre company. An innovative exploration of Canadian identity and citizenship in an increasingly populist world, Post National previews Nov. 19 and 20, opens Nov. 21, and continues to Nov. 25 in the Joseph G. Green Theatre on York University’s Keele campus.
“There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada. There are shared values — openness, respect, compassion, willingness to work hard, to be there for each other, to search for equality and justice. Those qualities are what make us the first post-national state.” – Justin Trudeau
Inspired by the prime minister’s comment that Canada is “the first post-national state,” Post National is a double bill. Continuing the tradition of shows that feature guest performers, pioneered by Rimini Protokoll’s 100% Project, Tim Crouch’s An Oak Tree, and Nassim Soleymanpour’s White Rabbit Red Rabbit, Volcano is creating an instruction-based piece from and about Canada. The first part of the evening consists of 12 guest performers between the ages of 18 and 24 years from the York University community. They will be answering live questions on stage about their relationship to nationhood and protest. The second part of the evening features fourth-year acting students from York University, performing the piece they devised with Pearson and Volcano, exploring the same topics from a different perspective.
The combination is a much-needed snapshot of university-aged students and how they regard nationalism in 2017. Questions will be asked: Where were you born? Do you think that is a good question to start with? What question would you start with?
Discussing the project, Post National director and Volcano Artistic Director Ross Manson, said, “Was our stylish prime minister talking politics or truth? We are thrilled to be working with our Post National Jury of Twelve to determine where Canada stands on the idea of nation and citizenship.”
“Living in the UK and witnessing the rise of the far right and nationalism in that country in such a visceral and disturbing way, I was both deeply touched and somewhat challenged by Trudeau’s assertion about Canada, the country where I was born,” said Pearson. “I wanted to go back and put this assertion under the microscope with a group of young Canadians, to see how it writhed or bloomed. Are we really setting a good example for the rest of the world?”
Pearson is a live artist who tours all over the world and has most recently had her work staged at the Royal Court in London. She has a PhD in narrative in performance and has acted as dramaturg for more than 20 shows internationally, many of which have won multiple awards and accolades. She was also named one of the UK’s 100 most powerful people in theatre in 2016 and 2009 by Stage Magazine. Pearson is an associate artist with Volcano and teams up with Manson and Volcano Associate Artist and Choreographer Kate Alton, both of whom are celebrated figures in the Canadian performance community and frequently tour their work internationally.
Post National kicks off “Worlds of Exile,” a season of plays exploring longing, belonging and displacement. Exile, refugee, asylum-seeker, nomad, migrant, immigrant, these are terms that share a sense of displacement and a feeling of otherness. While some of these terms can be defined in legal and political terms, others speak to a rift that generates a social and psychological condition. With “Worlds of Exile,” York University’s Department of Theatre reflects on aspects of the varied experience of persons who, either by choice or because of imposition, are living outside their home of origin, are “othered” by virtue of colonial exile practices, who have returned home only to find it unrecognizable, or who, as the children or grandchildren of exiles, are living in two worlds.
Performances begin at 7:30pm, Nov. 19 to 24, 1pm on Nov. 22 and 24, 2pm on Nov. 25. The Wednesday, Nov. 22 evening performance will be an American Sign Language interpreted and Deaf performance. The Thursday, Nov. 23 evening performance is a “Relaxed” performance.
Pricing and tickets are available online through the York University Box Office, or by phone at 416-736-5888.