At some point during the process of working with the survivors we realized that a play about their experiences was imperative.
As a cabaret artist, I know this to be a form that works well for stories that are 'polyvocal' or many-voiced. Just like the Speakers Bureau, a cabaret would provide a platform for a variety of different stories that all work together towards one goal: the destigmatization and desegregation of people who have survived institutional violence.
We decided to approach Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto as a site to host our cabaret. Buddies has a history of working with marginalized communities, it is accessible and it is a space that I've produced a lot of work in so I felt absolutely certain the staff would be on side with us and our process.
We booked a couple of rehearsals in the space so that we could all get used to the stage and the room itself. It was immediately apparent that this show already had legs, so to speak. Improvisational exercises produced two compelling group numbers almost immediately, movement work showed what we all already know: that pain is embodied, that it will come out when the body moves and remembers it and that sharing and witnessing these experiences with others provides the potential for healing.
It is through these direct acts of supported sharing that we truly learn the impacts of institutional violence and that we, together, as academics, survivors, students and activists, can build and support sites of loving and radical resistance.
- Alex Tigchelaar, Brock University Graduate working on the Recounting Huronia Project project, and Cabaret Artist