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PuSh International Festival of Performing Arts 2023 – Okinum
when: Feb 2, 3, 7:30 p.m.; From February 2 to 5, online
where: Anville Theatre, 777 Columbia Street, New Westminster
Tickets / information: pushfestival.ca
Falling, flying, and not making it in time for a lesson or test. These mundane themes are certainly well documented by sleep researchers interested in recurring dreams. But what happens in the depths of our souls has always inspired artists throughout the ages.
In her Okinum Award-winning work, Canadian multidisciplinary artist and playwright Émilie Monet enters a recurring dream to reconnect with her Anishinaabe origins and language and deliver a stimulating message about identity and self-discovery.
In the Anishinaabemowin language, okinum means dam. Monet acts out his recurring dream of a giant beaver who gives him magic words to say, and breaks down cultural walls to find personal truths in a story told in Anishinaabowim in both English and French. The multimedia journey of decoding the meaning of words includes a live recording by sound designer Jackie Gallant that includes the sounds of beavers, as well as other sounds with immersive lighting and visuals.
Okinum has been nominated for the 2021 Governor General’s Award for French.
Now Onishka Productions the show is coming to PuSh International Performing Arts Festival 2023 presenting with Enclume Theatre, Touchstone AnAku Theater and KVS Productions. It is also available in book form.
“The dream came first,” says Monet, “and a year later, the performance and the book were published in French.” My writing is very directly influenced by sound and the use of sound and video in a performance is a very different experience than reading. Immersion was more important than words at first because I am very interested in the coexistence of sound and breath and how the body reacts psychologically in different ways across different languages and what that means.
Specifically, the Okinum English translation was 10 pages shorter than the original, reflecting differences in observation and worldview of communication between different cultures. Monet was fascinated by what she discovered in the form of her work as she moved between languages in performance.
“Aboriginal languages are based on imagery and movement, so you really see the images when you discuss them,” she said. “By entering the world of dreams and the invisible, I find that I connect better with this world in Anishinaabemowim. It enriches the images because there are words to describe them.”
Monet’s grandfather’s first language was Anishinaabemowim, but it did not pass into his old age. Her mother tongue was French and she was rooted in that culture. She has spent her artistic practice collaborating or often speaking with elders to strengthen her relationship with indigenous peoples. Her mother is English, raised on reservations, and her father is French, from Brittany. Thus, all Okinum languages also specify who their creator is.
“I started writing back and forth in French and English because I got funding from two different societies of playwrights in Montreal and then from an Aboriginal theater company in Toronto,” said Monet. “So it made a lot of sense to keep these two languages and cultures as well as Anishinaabe in the final work. The question was always where I fit into these identities.”
When she was finishing the article, she was diagnosed with throat cancer. That is, the beaver dam became a beautiful metaphor for all the women in his family whose voices were blocked or denied and how to undo these barriers to allow the flow of emotional and spiritual truth. Okinum is now in a full recovery, Monet says, and has become a launching pad for future work.
Her first play received international acclaim and she will tour with French Guiana and play with the indigenous peoples along the Marigny River in this overseas territory of France. A new collaboration with an Amazon native artist is being developed to premiere in 2023.
5 must-see performances at the PuSh International Festival of Performing Arts 2023
when: January 19 – February 5, different times
where: different places and online
Tickets / information: pushfestival.ca
With its wide range of shows, PuSh Festival can seem daunting when it comes to deciding which shows to attend. Fortunately, PuSh Passes offer discounted viewing opportunities and the ability to mix and match selections. Those not feeling the venue’s full atmosphere could consider picking up a digital pass, which gives access to five of the 2023 event’s digital offerings.
Note: There are specific Digital Pass performance dates which provide a great option for those whose schedules do not allow for in-person attendance. Check out the full program on the PuSh Festival website.
Here are five shows to see.
The Songbook for the Percussionist
when: 25, 26 Jan.
Canadian Premiere: The Songs Without Words album shows how the percussionist explains his latest release. Inspired by Arabic folktales and the prose of Michael Ondaatje, he takes audiences on an auditory tour.
when: January 28 – February 5
where: Roundhouse Showroom, 181 Roundhouse Mews
Coming from Zimbabwean/American artist Nora Schebaumir, this audiovisual installation bridges African spirituality with contemporary art to make a dynamic statement about resistance and recovery.
when: 27, 28 Jan; January 27-30, online
where: Vancouver Theatre
First in Western Canada: Inspired by Théodore Géricault’s famous painting The Raft of the Medusa, Elements brings the elements to live theatre. Canadian choreographer Alan Lake blends ambient music, changing scenery, and heights with an endless interpretation of the dancers.
Luntano + immediate
when: January 26-28; January 26-29 online
whereScotiabank Dance Center, 677 Davie
Using the Cyr wheel, a heavy metal ring designed for continuous motion, the acrobats in this show illustrate the dynamic and physical interface between human and body. This is a great all-ages presentation for anyone with a taste for contemporary circus arts.
when: 2, 3 Feb
whereLeft: Main, 211 Keefer Street.
Bulgarian cabaret artist and camp director Ivo Demchev gives the audience a performance without stage, without hierarchy and without presence. Until people take selfies with him, that’s when the pop songs start pouring in. Deconstructing contemporary performances raises the question, “Who is at the center of the show?”