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Strangers in a strange land

by on April 6, 2010

(reposted from telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com)

Stage: ‘Seasons of Immigration’ features true stories, local artist

by Bruce Bartett, Telegraph Journal

Published Monday April 5th, 2010

A look at Canada through the eyes of immigrants will be offered at the Imperial Theatre on Friday and The Fredericton Playhouse on Saturday.

Click to EnlargeCindy Wilson/Telegraph-Journal
Quispamsis artist Peggy Woolsey will paint in front of the audiences in Saint John Friday and Fredericton Saturday during performances of ‘Seasons of Immigration,’ a a play about transplanted people trying to find their footing in a new place.

Seasons of Immigration is a play about transplanted people trying to find their footing in a new place and is based on real-life stories collected by MT Space, a theatre group in Kitchener, Ont. It includes many visual treats including an artist onstage working on a painting throughout the performance.

Peggy Woolsey, an artist who makes her home in Quispamsis, has taken on the task of painting in front of the audiences at performance at both the Imperial Theatre Friday night and The Playhouse in Fredericton on Saturday.

“As people filter into the theatre the artist is already at work on the stage,” Woolsey said.

She recently received a video of a performance in Ontario and is excited by the challenge of working on a large canvas in a short period of time.

Woolsey self-identifies as an immigrant because she came to Canada in the 1970s from the United States as a person who objected to the Vietnam war.

While she is painting, there will be actors on the stage showing what it feels like to arrive in a new country, pass though customs and get their first view of their new home.

They tour Niagara Falls, take English-as-a-second-language class, drink Tim Hortons, apply for jobs, work in factories, fight with spouses and children and ponder the limitless variety of canned tomatoes.

During all this Woolsey will be working on a five-by-seven-foot canvas with the aid of a ladder.

“I am quite interested in responding to the music and the movement and the speech of the performers,” she said.

Woolsey recently finished an artist residency at the New Brunswick Museum, so the idea painting in public is no longer strange to her.

“This is quite a challenging, stimulating and exciting idea to work with a group and add this dimension to their performance,” she said.

Richard Campbell, director of settlement services at the Saint John YM-YWCA, has purchased 70 tickets for the performance to be handed out to newcomers participating in language classes.

“Afterwards we are hoping to meet the entertainers because the newcomers would have gone through the same sorts of things,” he said.

The play does not require a great mastery of the English language to understand, instead relying on physical movement and light-hearted text, along with the live painting and the soundscape.

MT Space founder Majdi Bou-Matar of Kitchener, himself an immigrant from Lebanon, is directing the play. The theatre group has grown from a grassroots organization to one that is gaining national recognition after creating four main-stage shows. The works have been seen in Montreal, Ottawa, London and Hamilton.

Tickets for the Saint John show are $30, $25 and $20, $15 for 18 and under, available at the box office, or by calling 674-4100 or 1-800-323-SHOW. Tickets for the Fredericton show are $28, $22 for members and $18 for students, available at the box office or by calling 458-8344 or 1-866-884-5800.

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