Arts

Home Sweet … Something was created by Zaakirah and Ayesha Chubb (pictured) and Ludmylla Reis. Photo: Litera Pro/Provided

U of O grads well-represented at undercurrents theatre festival this year

Ottawa is a city full of theatre festivals, and undercurrents, one of the highlights of the city’s theatre scene, is running from Feb. 5–15.

The undercurrents theatre festival bills itself as “theatre below the mainstream.” It’s a festival of boundary-pushing theatre by both emerging and established creators that gives creators a chance to stage their new works.

Three actors taking on the challenge of “theatre below the mainstream” are all University of Ottawa alumni from the theatre and visual arts departments: Ludmylla Reis, Ayesha Chubb and Zaakirah Chubb, who perform as Litera Pro.

The trio’s production is called Home Sweet … Something, a title that puns on the idea of not having a clear definition of home. The play revolves around three women who wake up trapped in an escape room. In order to escape, they must answer a series of questions.

“It’s also filled with a bunch of personal pieces that we’ve made that reflect our lives in terms of what it’s like to live in Canada as a culturally-mixed person,” said Zaakirah, whether that means coming from a mixed-heritage background or being a newcomer in Canada.

Reis summed up the theme of the escape room as “Who’s the best immigrant?”

“The master of the game thinks and knows everything about it, but it just clashes with our perceptions of what being an immigrant or mixed or other actually is when you live it, versus what you think that is or what you stereotypically imagine,” Reis said.

HSS was a piece of collective creation, with all three creating it collaboratively. For Ayesha, questions of mixed-heritage identity were already on her mind, as she had just completed an undergrad thesis in the visual arts department on the subject, exploring her visual heritages through painting.

Since HSS is in the under-development program, the trio is able to have rehearsal time, tech support, and someone to help them shape the play for production, all while getting paid.

The undercurrents festival is also a space for Ayesha and Zaakirah to showcase their music duo New Poetics, with original songs appearing in the production.

In fact, HSS is a multidisciplinary piece, or as Reis labels it, an “inter-arts piece” that integrates different art forms into one coherent production. She said that undercurrents is one of the best festivals for multidisciplinary pieces that don’t fit neatly into one category, since the festival is all about experimentation and exploration.

The festival acts as a good way to see how the Ottawa theatre scene, and even the larger Ontario scene, has grown. Reis said that undercurrents is a way to see plays that she might otherwise have to go to Toronto to see.

“What I like about undercurrents is that it’s really trying to push things as much as they can. It can be about the structure of producing or about the style of bringing people together or what kind of plays you’re doing,” said Reis. “Of course, for a festival to program something absolutely avant-garde, you depend on people being absolutely avant-garde.”

U of O alumni are well represented across undercurrents this year. The playwright-director and one of the performers of Honey Dew Me are U of O grads (Luke Brown and Kyle Cameron), and there are U of O alum or professors involved in Heartlines (director Rebecca Benson teaches at the U of O), Beth-Anne (performer Monica Bradford-Lea, director Nicholas Leno and composer Angela Schleihauf), CARDINAL and of course Home Sweet … Something.

There are also plays from British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Toronto, including a “sci-fi comedy rock show” about an astronaut hurtling through space at light speed featuring a live rock band. The festival also features late-night programming including stand-up, a cabaret night, and concerts.

The undercurrents theatre festival, highlighting “theatre below the mainstream,” runs from Feb. 5–15 at Arts Court. More information is on their website.