Travel and Charity in Pacific Theatre’s Mother Teresa is Dead

Some people travel to visit friends or family. Some people travel to see the world. And some travel to escape. Such is the case of Jane, a character in Pacific Theatre’s latest show, Mother Teresa is Dead. Jane has travelled from England to India because she wants to help. She is overwhelmed by the poverty and injustice she sees in the world and feels an irrepressible need to help the less fortunate. But she has also left England to escape the life with her husband and young son that she sees as shallow and meaningless and seems to be drowning within.

 

Kayvon Kelly and Julie McIsaac as Srinivas and Jane. Photo by Ron Reed.

 

When the play begins, Jane’s husband, Mark, has just arrived in India. Jane has been missing for seven weeks and Mark has only just tracked her down to the house of a British expat, Frances. Frances has kindly taken Jane in, but is unable to shed any light as to why Jane left Mark and their son without a word. When Mark learns that Jane has been working at a shelter helping children, he is livid that Jane would leave their child to help other children. There are explosive confrontations between husband and wife, as well as with Srinivas, the owner of the shelter who also arrives looking for Jane.

 

Sebastian Kroon and Julie McIsaac as Mark and Jane. Photo by Ron Reed.

 

Mother Teresa is Dead made me think about travelling and why we travel. As someone who loves travelling and travels as much as possible, Mother Teresa is Dead made me think, why do we travel? Why do I travel? I know that I, as the traveller, learn so much. I learn about other countries and cultures. I try new things and have new experiences. I learn what I like and don’t like, and what I am capable of. I come home feeling enriched. But what about everyone else? How do my travels affect other people? It is clear Jane’s journey to India has affected so many lives, from her family in England, to locals like Srinivas and the children of the shelter, to the good Samaritan Frances. By travelling to India, does Jane really what she sought to do – help the less fortunate – or does she instead bring a world of trouble into Frances’ home?

 

Julie McIsaac and Katharine Venour as Jane and Frances. Photo by Ron Reed.

 

Mother Teresa is Dead is a play that asks a lot big questions, but leaves them unanswered. Can one live a guilt-free life when so many people in the world are suffering? Do we do more harm than good when we try to help? Are charities designed just to ease the guilt of comfortable Westerners? In this way, Mother Teresa is Dead is neither preachy or apologetic; it just makes you think. As I was leaving the theatre I found I was asking my own big questions about travel and the motivations for travelling that I could not find the answers for.

Congratulations to Kayvon Kelly (Srinivas), Sebastian Kroon (Mark), Julie McIsaac (Jane), and Katharine Venour (Frances) for their superb performances and to Director Evan Frayne for a truly thought-provoking and enjoyable show.

 

Mother Teresa is Dead
When: March 1st – 23rd, 2013, Wednesday to Saturday nights at 8pm, with Saturday matinees at 2 pm
Where: Pacific Theatre, 1440 W. 12th Ave, Vancouver
Tickets: Buy online

She Has A Name & So Do Many Other Victims of Sex Tourism

When I travel, I often wonder what life is like for the women that live there.  I know that with my pasty white skin and our roamancing red boots, I stand out and am not seen as one of them ~ treated with the grace and tenderness of a lady, but given the respect of a man in many cultures, in addition to being seen with a great deal of humour (often thanks to the red boots).  You see, I won the lottery of birth.  I was born into a Canadian home of two educated parents that treated each other as equals.  It was me that my Dad tried to get to pursue medicine, not my brother.  We were taught to believe that with hardwork and gumption, we could achieve whatever we set our minds to, and we have, although not necessarily quite in the manner we initially envisioned.  I mean really, how few people get to live their lives the way I am?  Don’t get me wrong I have fought hard to do what I do, and am still not making what I should (and as a single gal, I know I need to start planning for retirement), but had I been dealt a different hand in birth, none of this may have been possible. Heck, the fact alone that I worry about retirement tells you just how lucky I am. I myself may have grown up to be a very different person with none of the confidence and bull dog spirit I posses.

 

A scene from She Has A Name, showing the two-worlds of the woman in the brothel and that with a life more similar to my own. Photographed by Kelsey Krogman.

 

I was tenderly and heart-wrenchingly reminded of this when I attended a Vancouver Fringe Festival Play the other night at the Firehall Arts Centre ~ She Has A Name by Andrew Kooman presented by Burnt Thicket Theatre and RaiseTheirVoice. This was the story a young girl who at the tender age of 15 had seen more than I ever wish to see in a Bangkok brothel, repeatedly raped and forced into sexual acts from the tender age of 10, when she went into the city in Burma to work at a factory to help her single Mom support the family, or so she thought, before she was smuggled out of the country and forced into a life of sex slavery.  This is also the story of the dangers and inner turmoil of the men and women from around the world that try to help victims of human trafficking, told from the perspective of Jason, a lawyer who has left his family in Canada to try and navigate his way through a Bangkok brothel in an attempt to gather evidence and build a legal case against them for trafficking girls into Bangkok.  A particularly strong perspective if you ask me, as it reminded me of the turmoils that the men who try to help go through too.

 

She Has A Name Tours Canada from Unveil Studios on Vimeo.

 

In leaving this play, it left me wanting to do something to help, beyond telling all my friends to go see the play (which you all should do or if it’s not currently playing in in your area, get one of your local theatres to invite them).  This is a story we all should hear and think about for these women, children (and men) often have no voice of their own and no one to hear their screams.  How very scary is that.  Here I live a life where I can speak my mind on politics, religion and all sorts of other contentious topics, without fear.  A life where I was able to choose when to share my body with another and with whom, and I can assure you that was not at the tender age of 10 or 15, but when I was an adult, ready and at least thought I was in love.  Thinking of having such acts forced upon me sickens me and further terrifies me to think that for these women, children, (and men), they have no one to seek help from.  But what does one do to help?  This is after all a very dangerous issue.  A couple of things that occur to me more superficially in my own life:

  • Don’t laugh or accept that ever so disgusting mantra of “What happens in Vegas (or Whistler or any number of other places) stays in Vegas.”  The things we do when on the road do affect others, and very real people, like the women, children (and men) in brothels and your lovers back home, can be hurt by them.  If you wouldn’t do something at home for moral reasons or fear of what others would think if they saw, then you probably shouldn’t do them on the road.  And while many of us are not guilty of such things, we likely have laughed at the line of “what happens on the road, stays on the road.” Stop laughing and start telling people it’s not cool.
  • Ladies (and men) – be careful and aware of your surroundings and how you are being perceived within them.  Traveling is a wonderful thing, but don’t put yourself into danger.  Just like with men, some women see traveling as an opportunity to be more promiscuous. Be careful, as you don’t want to put yourself or others in danger for ‘a bit of fun’.

 

There is absolutely nothing sexy or titillating about Sex Tourism. Those that partake are creating somebody else’s nightmare. Photo by Kelsey Krogman from She Has A Name.

 

On a broader scale, the play She Has A Name has given us some ideas on how we can help the victims of human trafficking and sex slavery, as from Play It Forward and encouraging others to see it. Here are their suggestions:

1. Write your MP and sign a petition
It’s not glamorous, but it’s effective.  Let your MP know that as your representative you want them to be a strong voice against human trafficking. Visit www.shehasaname.net/respond/write-and-petition to find out your MP’s address and to learn about petitions you can print and share with others and send to Parliament, urging government to change the way we address the crime of trafficking in Canada.

2. Give to our partner project in Thailand
Home of New Beginnings is a safe-house in Bangkok that helps children and women leave the sex trade and begin new lives. You can read more at www.homeofnewbeginnings.com and donate online at www.a-better-world.ca – click on the Canada Helps “Donate Now” button, then select Fund/Designation as “Specify Project in Message Box” and then enter “She Has A Name” in the message field. You may also telephone A Better World Canada at 403.782.1140.

3. Fuel the Tour
If this story impacted you, help us ensure we make it across the country so more Canadians can engage the issue.  You can donate mileage or fuel the tour vehicle between cities at www.shehasaname.net/fuel-the-tour.

4. Connect with Organizations Combatting Trafficking
Learn more about the issue and then volunteer your time and resources to bring change in a way that utilizes your unique gifts.  Your life is so valuable, and we firmly believe you will experience great meaning as you use your gifts to change real stories of despair into real stories of hope!  View a list of great organizations at www.shehasaname.net/organizations.

5. Report warning signs of human trafficking

  • in your community, at work, when traveling to: Crime Stoppers 1.800.222.8477 (1.800.222.TIPS)
  • online child sexual abuse imagery, child sex tourism, child trafficking, and child luring to: The Canadian Centre for Child Protection.

 

Give victims of Sex Tourism, like No. 18 in She Has A Name, hope. Photographed by Kelsey Krogman.

 

If you are in Vancouver, I encourage you to catch the final production of She Has A Name tonight at 9:30 pm at the Firehall Arts Centre. The next stops on their Canadian Tour are Kelowna (September 18th-21st), Edmonton (September 25th-30th) and Red Deer (October 2nd-6th).

Remember She Has A Name.  Help give these women, children (and men) a voice and combat sex tourism.

The 13th Annual Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival: The Day in Pixengos

Hell of a great day yesterday at the 13th Annual Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival!  Took a ton of photos and video to share the day with all of you, but given my current state of exhaustion, you, my friends, are going to have to wait for me to process all of that.

In the meantime, however, I have a teaser for all of you in the form of pixengos Erica and I shot and recorded from the day.  What is a pixengo you ask?  A photo combined with a sound file.  Simply click on the photos below, and you will get the photo with it’s sound bite from the day.

Enjoy!

Up first … rocking the stage for too short a time … No Sinner.

 

Kicking off a great day with a sausage, a beer, and the blues stylings of No Sinner.

 

Followed by one of our festival favourites, Canada’s only 7-piece Bluegrass Band, The Washboard Union.

 

These good old boys certainly know how to play a jig …

 

… and boy do they have style … speaking of which, does anyone know if any of these fellows are single?

 

Followed by the powerful voice and fearsome bass of Meshelle Ndegeocello.

 

mmm … mmm

 

Enjoyed the music of Saskatchewan‘s Deep Dark Woods, but less than cared for a few of their self-obsessed fans. Shame as they really took away from their performance.

 

Not sure what made these self-centered hipsters so self-important that they thought they could stand directly in front of the stage and in front of everyone’s view, even though there was plenty of room to stand off to the side. Rather ruined this act. Glad to say it was the only time we saw this lot all day ~ the hipsters, not Deep Dark Woods.

 

Thank goodness the next act was who I’d been waiting for since I got my tickets, Amadou & Miriam.  They certainly did not disappoint, and got me out of my funk from the hipster asses

 

Apparently it wasn’t only me that loved Amadou & Miriam.

 

Now while not as much of a stomper, the beauty of the music of the next blues man, Kelly Joe Phelps, would tame the wildest beasts with his sweet lullabies.

 

This man would lull the wildest of beasts.

 

Great atmosphere, and only moments after this scene and the end of Kelly’s set, the audience was on their feet giving Kelly a standing ovation.

 

Up next?  None other than the sweet, jazzy blues stylings of Jimmie Vaughan!

 

Well, really what’s there to say, other than mmm … mmm … mmm!

 

And what better way to end the day, than with the Indigo Girls!

 

Still just as fantastic as they were 20 years ago!

 

Did I mention it was a Hell of a great day?!?

Overcoming Personal Fears with Florence + the Machine at Deer Lake Park

Concerts are a very rare feature in my life; I love music, yet am generally so out of the loop when my favourite artists are touring that I do not notice when they come and go. When I do, I am often too scared to bother attending because when it comes to venturing into the wild outdoors, my co-dependency springs up crying “There will be crowds! Crowds and noise and you don’t know anyone who can escort you in and out of this safely!” So I stay home and dream instead.

This summer, though, lady luck smiled upon me and I was given the chance to attend Florence + the Machine’s Vancouver show for her Ceremonials tour at Deer Lake Park with my dear friend Janice! It was the perfect opportunity. I am a great fan of Florence, albeit a rather recent one, so the artist in question made this a much anticipated summer event for me from the start. Add to that a mate to keep me company during the whole thing, and possibly rescue me from dwelling on the possibility that my nightmares come true and I am literally devoured by a large crowd. (We all have our personal boogeymen…)

 

Lovely moment in which Florence asked audience members to hoist one another upon thei shoulders. Janice and I couldn’t support each other’s weight, sadly. (Photo: Janice Cheng)

 

When asked how my evening was after the fact, I had one thing to say in particular: Florence was great. I do not imply that the experience was something akin to having to dance on hot coals while beautiful music plays to partially soothe your aching feet somehow, but there were a few hang ups to be had. Some were self-made: my friend and I had a chance to claim a great spot towards the front of the stage, but we wasted it for love of pizza. We decided to chill on the grass for a bit before Florence came out, thinking we could just run up at some point and cut through the crowd like butter. (Or, well, I naively thought as much.) Nope! When we did choose to join the crowd, it had turned into an impenetrable fortress, at least for two mild-mannered young ladies. So our view of Florence was… slightly compromised.

Actually, no. That was a bad analogy. The crowd was more like a selectively-permeable cell wall. Throughout the show, there were many instances of people shoving their way through the area Janice and I had managed to settle in. It felt like Grand Central Station at times. After so many sorry-coming-throughs, I began to get a touch … irritated at something I should have expected when going to a sold-out show and choosing to stand with the bulk of my fellow concert-goers.

 

Our breathtaking vantage point. I do enjoy how the red of her hair stood out, sort of! (Photo: Janice Cheng)

 

Yet, through all minor annoyances, including my camera and phone conking out minutes into the show, I can’t regret the experience. I could not see Florence all that well, capture the moment, or be of a wholly cheerful disposition when the lovely lady in front of me let her cigarette dangle with the smoking tip facing my way… I could still hear Florence just fine. Her powerful voice reached me, and while I did not forget the things that irritated me, I chose to accept them and love the show nonetheless. Most of my favourite songs were on the setlist! I would be jumping up and down happily at each song and was just grateful for my opportunity to be there at all.

Hopefully, though, the experience will help me prepare better for the next big show I attend in my lifetime. Everything is a lesson!

 

Receipts.

 

Birthday Celebrations & Travel Inspiration, Thanks to the Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival

We have a long standing summer tradition at Ahimsa Media to celebrate our summer birthdays with those of us that happen to be in Vancouver at the time. You see three of our main team – myself, Alyzee Lakhani and Erica Hargreave all have summer birthdays, and often one of our seasonal storytellers also has a summer birthdays, like Hannia Curi this summer.  Back in the old days this meant legendary parties in Erica’s backyard, hanging out by the fire pit and drinking fresh fruit margaritas with an eclectic mix of people, that often ended in great stories, including weddings. When Erica moved into a townhouse, these epic birthday celebrations nearly died, and they might have had it not been to the fabulous people at Burnaby Culture. You see for the past 4 years our summer birthday celebrations have moved to the Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival, and a damn good new birthday celebration this has become.  Something we look forward to each summer.

With Erica’s actually birthday tomorrow (July 27th), I thought I’d share a bit of tease with her and you on what to expect at this year’s festival.  Sharing this particular tease here as opposed to on Being Emme, as this couple of music videos by Amadous & Miriam also act as great travel videos of Mali.

 

Oh Amadou from their album Folio, featuring Bertrand Cantat, directed by Jessy Nottola.

 

Sénégal Fast Food from their album Dimanche à Bamako, produced by Manu Chao.

 

To learn more about Amadous & Miriam and their version of the blues, read on on this post on Being Emme.

Sweet Summer Night Kisses,

Emme xoxo

 

PS. In Full Disclosure: As always, the opinions and thoughts shared here are our own and honest ones. We are bought out by no one. In the spirit of disclosure, it should be noted that Burnaby Culture gives us a few Blues & Roots tickets each year, allowing us to celebrate our birthdays in the best possible way.