Saturday, 8 December 2018

Playback Theatre: Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master


Red Threads of Peace Playback troupe members gather every Wednesday to refresh and hone their performing skills. Physicality, musicality, spontaneity, authenticity, volume, presence, storytelling, emotional expression, creativity and more! Playback offers a rich playing field for learning an art form, learning about ourselves, and connecting with others.


This year Bequie Lake, Briony Haig, Tanissa Martindale and I participated in one week of training on the Suzuki Method and Viewpoints with Thom Morgan Jones, new Artistic Director of Prairie Theatre Exchange. In a word - intense! The training touched me at the core of my being – emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. Thom's ability to be present speaks to the method he clearly knows intimately.His level of articulation of skills and direction is luminous. Thom demonstrated capacity to safely guide, respect and support his students through the growth in their artistic skill is welcomed and appreciated. Winnipeg is lucky to have him!


Late in the Fall, Tanissa and Bequie went to Boston for a workshop with Christopher and Anne Ellinger from True Story Theatre. They enjoyed the lovely hospitality and opportunity to connect with other  troupes from across the continent doing what we do; sharing and using the joy and love of Playback in our home communities. Learning playback exercises, forms and performance styles unique to the Boston company and others, pollinates and expands our practice! A special thank you to True Story member Amber Espar, who hosted Tanissa and Bequie at her home, for her generosity of spirit, as a host, teacher and performer.

 

Training also reconnects us with our appreciation of the specific flair, cohesion and multi-faceted strengths of our troupe. The gifts from these trainings are generously shared with the rest of the troupe at our regular playdates. We are hoping to do more training for the full Red Threads company in the New Year!

- Dana Rungay, Founder of Red Threads of Peace Playback

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Dialogue and Gratitude at St. Kateri

St. Kateri Tekakwitha Aboriginal Catholic Parish has been the home for many Red Threads rehearsals over the past several years.  To thank the church for their generosity in sharing their space with us, our troupe offered to do a volunteer performance.

St. Kateri has been working on a dialogue project focusing on reconciliation among indigenous peoples and settlers with St. Ignatius Parish.  Members of both congregations have been meeting regularly for dialogue and community building, and we had the gift of joining them for a closing dialogue on October 18th, 2018.

Over the evening, we heard stories from community members about experiences - some long ago and some recent - that shaped their understandings of themselves and others.

We heard stories of cultural assumptions, of confronting bullying, and of peace-builders who had touched the lives of those present.

After joining the community for the evening, our company now has even more reason to be grateful.  Thank you St. Kateri for providing us a home for our weekly practice - such a fundamental ingredient in what we do.  And thank you for your openness to trying something new and the great risk of sharing your stories.

"Thank you very much for working with our Kateri-St. Ignatius reconciliation group.  Your depth of understanding and interpreting built a community in the room and called us all to embrace our own humaness, realizing we are all one." - Sr. Margaret Hughes

"I never expected it to move me as it did" - Winn Leslie, Parishioner, St. Ignatius







Thursday, 11 October 2018

Peace Day with Miles Macdonnell Collegiate


Miles Macdonnell Collegiate invited Red Threads of Peace to perform for about 100 Grade 9 to 12 students at their Peace Day event on September 21. The theme was ‘Reconciliation,’ a significant and emotional exploration which can touch on so many sensitive experiences. We focussed on Senator Murray Sinclair’s description of reconciliation as ‘restoring respectful relationships’ and what that entails.

Certainly, it is a theme which is very challenging in a large group of people of any age and in a school context where most are finding their place of belonging, it is a delicate topic.

We opened with some warm up games to help students feel more comfortable with the troupe, the space and opening up. Even low risk games can be out of a comfort zone for some. Awkwardness, being ‘cool’ or shy are all part of warming up. Nonetheless, we all moved, talked and laughed together.

As we moved into telling their personal stories of reconciliation with friends and family, the students and teachers offered moments from their participation in Peace Day presentations and experiences from their own lives. They talked about finding inspiration in the activism of others, the perseverance of re-building a community without resources and resolving conflicts with their family and friends.

Some of the feedback from the teachers was:

It was really great to have your group take part in the day - theatre and the arts provide a unique opportunity to explore difficult topics and from the feedback that I received, most of the audience seemed to appreciate this and were excited to take part. 

It was an awesome event. We need more events like this as it has such an unbelievable impact on our students. In speaking to the students afterwards it was clear that it was thought provoking and challenged them to think and act in a more tolerant and respectful manner. 

I really enjoyed it, there was comedy and interaction with all of the students. You’re never too cool to have fun, which is why I enjoyed it so much. You could see the joy on all of your faces up on stage. It really made my day, so thank you! 

Thank you to Miles Macdonnell Collegiate for giving us the opportunity to honour your stories. As always, we are inspired by the courage of those who choose to share and by the surprising ways that playback can evoke response, even in those awkward and uncertain moments!

- Red Threads of Peace Founder, Dana Rungay

Monday, 16 July 2018

The Year That Was



Yet another Playback season closes and we take this time to soak up the sunshine before coming back together again in the fall. Having time to reflect is an important part of the work that we do, so we thought we would share what was on the minds of a few of our troupe members:

Experiencing playback theatre with the Red Threads of Peace has been an amazing reconnection with emotion, expression and self. Through creative interpretation, re-enacting live playback of human experiences has been a call from within to explore my own concepts of perception, understanding and speaking through new mediums and rusty channels. What a wonderful troupe of playback players to examine movement, sound and music with. It has been an eye opener in the use of theatre forms to express experiences, good and bad and to work through emotions and feelings in processing life’s experiences. Getting familiar with creating statue gardens, Narrative V’s and choruses, has been exploratory and great in the experience of transforming story to stage. I am excited to explore more.
- Cathy Menard, new member since Dec 2017

I’ve loved everything! The acting, taking a risk, learning to trust my intuition, the support & empathy, the genuine stories, the process, the rituals, the laughter. I pinch myself sometimes to see if it’s real because I love it so much.
- Briony Haig


The Years I Have Had... The Years Ahead:
 Red Threads Playback of Peace was conceived about 7 years ago from my need to practice playback. After several international playback workshops I realized that it doesn’t matter how many workshops I do, if I don’t practice I won’t learn it. My favourite playback saying is: “Playback is easy to learn, difficult to master.” After 7 years I sure can say that again!
I was, and still am, quite disconnected from the arts community in Winnipeg. Fortunately, I had worked at the Gas Station Arts Centre doing a program for high risk youth. I also had met Sue Proctor through Artists in Healthcare Manitoba. Sue pointed me towards Rose Condo and Loc Lu at MTYP and Loc connected me with Bequie Lake. Lucky lucky lucky for playback in Winnipeg…what amazingly welcoming and gifted people they are!

Our starting idea was a leadership model of training community people in Playback Theatre to use in their programs with our possible mentorship along with performances. I named us Red Threads of Peace from the many cultural myths and legends of connection between people destined to meet. It is the invisible thread of heart to heart connection. In playback, the red thread is the thread of emerging theme which runs through a performance.

We formed a working group under the wings of Nick Kowalchuk and the Gas Station Arts Centre. Our group had representation of artists, therapists, local and international social justice activists and planners. This coming-together of like minds resulted in The Red Threads of Peace Playback Project. Without the unwavering leadership and support of co-founders Bequie and Loc; and the stability of Nick and the Gas Station Theatre, I doubt if Red Threads would have evolved to the extent it has.

To create a catalyst to form a Red Threads troupe we offered a training with international Playback trainer Sarah Halley funded by the Winnipeg Foundation. The training was promoted to artists, therapists and social justice activists.

Following the training we gathered every 2 or 3 or 4 weeks, depending on our availability to do playback. Bequie named these gatherings “playdates.” It reflected our sense of joy in self expression and the play-filled approach we brought to our learning the art of playback. For a couple of years our playdates had 2 to 10 people attending, until finally Jennifer Pilgrim said, “let’s meet every week.” We did and it began to stabilize our troupe. Since then we have hosted Armand Volkas and Sheila Donio, both international trainers, as well as numerous local theatre artists to deepen our playback toolbox. Thanks again to funding from the Winnipeg Foundation.

In the beginning years, Bequie and I did all the workshops and playdates. Playback Theatre was enthusiastically embraced by Jean Tinling at Mosaic Newcomer Family Resource Network where we did a series of workshops with newcomers and indigenous youth. We saw clearly the power of playback to build community. On seeing his story played back by a newcomer woman, I loved watching an exuberant indigenous youth say: “she knows exactly how I feel.”

We have continued doing workshops and performances with the generous support of grants from Winnipeg Foundation, Assiniboine Credit Union, Manitoba Community Services Council, Winnipeg Arts Council, Manitoba Government programs of LIFT and Healthy Together Now. The generous support from the Gas Station Arts Centre, Manitoba Theatre for Young People and St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish provided our playdate space. This funding and support gave us the chance to do workshops and performances at many places like Selkirk Mental Health Centre, Villa Cabrini Seniors Residence, Studio Central, Rainbow Resource Centre, Mosaic Newcomer Family Resource Network, Pathways to Reconcilitation Conference, and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, as well as numerous peace building, human rights and education initiatives.

Red Threads has always nurtured a collaborative ‘group-mind’ approach in our playdates. After seven years, our troupe rotates playdate leadership and facilitators with seasoned playback artists like Bequie Lake, Thomas Novak, Robin Shugart, Elena Anciro, Dawn Lavand, Brad Leitch, and Tanissa Martindale. The diversity, honesty and humour of our troupe brings lightness and warmth to trainings and performances. It is so gratifying to leave a workshop or performance with the audience feeling happier and more energized than when we entered.

We are very excited that filmmaker and playback artist, Brad Leitch is capturing the impact of playback on our lives and our audiences in a documentary sponsored by the Montreal International Conference Committee. A heart felt tribute to our experiences is anticipated.

Over our time together, my role has primarily been as a conductor. It fills me with peace, confidence and joy knowing I can trust our troupe to enter a story with compassion, honesty and artistic sensitivity. We may not always “get it right” however the sincerity and respect of our actors for the teller is always palpable. We have created a space where I feel both the safety to risk and the joy of play, as an actor too.

I found Red Threads to have playback playmates. What I have found is acceptance, artistic and personal connection, social justice commitment and congeniality on a foundation of empathy and playfulness. What a find!
 - Dana Rungay, Founder of Red Threads of Peace Playback

On the first sight it seems impossible.
Then just crazy.
And then you take a leap of faith with the help of all that lovely people around you. 
Thank you all. 

- Dasa Silhova




Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Studio Central Visit




On Thursday, April 12th, Red Threads had the chance to visit Studio Central a project of ArtBeat Studio.  Artbeat Studio Inc. is a unique community based, peer directed program that provides social supports, working art studio and gallery space, and mentorship for individuals living with mental illness for the purpose of recovery and empowerment.  Thank you Megan for the nice photos - and those whole Studio Central community for the stories!

"Thank you for the incredibly vibrant performances last week.  The way that the audiences individual stories became alive and meaningful, inspired so many. A common question over the last week has been, "When can that Red Thread Theatre Group come back!"

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

WE'RE BACK! UP AND COMING FOR THE FALL

Some of the Red Threads team at our first rehearsal of the season.

Red Threads will be leaping into a busy Fall season with many partnerships across the city.  Over the last six years, we have been building bridges of understanding and empathy by sharing personal stories through improvisational theatre.  Our workshops & performances have nurtured many connections in Winnipeg, and we're looking forward to all of these upcoming collaborations.  

This year, several of the workshops and performances will be part of a Playback documentary being filmed by Red Threads team member Brad Leitch of Rebel Sky Media.

Public Performances

September 23rd - "Let Me Tell You My Story" at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.  

Bonface Beti, cofounder of Amani Peoples Theatre in Kenya, will lead two workshops leading to a public performance.  Bonface has used Playback Theatre as tool for conflict transformation across central Africa. Bonface is also a two-year visiting member of Red Threads of Peace Playback Theatre troupe. The theme of his workshops and performances are newcomers' stories of home. The workshop will involve a group of 10 newcomers in Winnipeg who will also participate in the final public performance with Red Threads.  Admission is free.  We will be filming this process.


September 28th - "When I Moved to Manitoba" in collaboration with the Global College and the Umunna (Igbo) Cultural Association of Manitoba.

Red Threads will perform stories of immigrating to Manitoba — the good, the challenging, and the heart-warming — at this event co-hosted by Global College and the Umunna (Igbo) Cultural Association of Manitoba.  

Other upcoming Red Threads workshops

We also have other workshops and performances coming up with some of our community partners.   

In September we will be continuing our relationship with Rainbow Resource Centre as part of their seasonal volunteer training with a workshop and performance.  This is the first in a series of 3 workshop/performances.

Next up, in October, Red Threads will also have a performance at the International Expressive Arts Therapy Conference. We have been invited to film this event for the documentary and are excited about the collaboration.  We will also be offering a workshop to Drama Educators at their annual conference.

Last but not least, two members of the troupe, including one who was part of an Indigenous Doula program, will be leading a series of workshops and a performance on "birthing & mothering stories". This is in partnership with "The Mothering Project" at Mount Carmel Clinic. They are excited to participate in playback and the documentary.  

We are looking forward to a full fall.  Come join us for the public shows at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the Global College - or connect with us about your ideas!  

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Wow... What a Season of Playback!



Our Red Threads of Peace troupe is grateful for the many communities we have had the opportunity to perform during the 2016-2017 season:

Villa Cabrini Residence
Sarasvati Productions
Pathways to Reconciliation Conference
Artists Access Ability Network Manitoba
Rebel Sky Media Peace Days
Arthur Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice
Manitoba Storytellers’ Guild “Seeds of Hope”
Canadian Community Economic Development Conference
Studio Central
St Kateri Tekakwitha Church Reconciliation Dialogues
Eden Health Care Foundation
Mosaic Family Resource Network
Association of Religious of Manitoba
Rainbow Resource Centre
Friends and Family

Over 700 people shared moments and experiences from their lives this past season. We were honoured to perform them and will carry the warmth of their stories and hospitality with us.

Manitoba Theatre for Young People, Villa Cabrini Residence and the Gas Station Arts Centre generously gave us rehearsal and performance space. Funding for projects and training was received from Winnipeg Foundation, Manitoba Community Services Council, Winnipeg Arts Council, Healthy Together Now, and donations. It is this open flowing of support and caring that has nurtured and sustained the development of our troupe and our capacity to serve Winnipeg and the surrounding area of communities.


Having our first public performance on May 31 was a wonderful way to end our 2016-2017 season. With your help, we raised over $800 for our long time supporter, the Gas Station Arts Centre! We are fortunate to be part of a community so willing to engage in a spirit of compassion and respect for lived experiences through Playback Theatre.

To top it all off, our amazing troupe member, Brad Leitch of Rebel Sky Media, is working on a short documentary about what drives playback actors to take creative risks before live audiences, while handling difficult topics and stories. His film will give insight into the world of Playback through the eyes of Red Threads, as we discover stories, the beauty of art, the rituals of performance and the power of community arts practice. Stay tuned!

Red Threads is now on summer break and will return in the Fall. We look forward to returning with refreshed minds and hearts, ready to receive and honour your stories.