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We heard about Against the Grain Theater incorporating testimonies of refugees and displaced peoples settlement experience in their new production BOUND. 

We wanted to hear more about how they came to create this new performance and why the refugee crisis is the central theme of the performance. With three shows sold out don’t miss out on the opportunity to see the last performance on December 16th!


Why did you decide to combine a classic opera with the current refugee crisis?

We wanted a human base that is common with all people.  We decided that Handel would be that base.  At the heart of his music, there are kernel’s of truth and light which, for me, resonates as the Human Spirit and light which is within us all.  Instead of trying to find out the style or sound of each character, we say that Handel is what we all share in common.  I also think that classic opera can be relevant and immediate to the concerns of today and this is truly a test in trying to find what that looks and sounds like.

Why is dehumanizing a dominant theme in the production?

I think that the more we learn about the world and different peoples cultures, the more fearful some of us become.  The world is changing and changing so quickly and it is easy to stick with what we know and want to defend this.  I am fearful that if we continue to follow that trend, we will close ourselves off to the struggles and disappointments which refugees and displaced communities are experiencing around the world.  We’re seeing trends of dehumanization it in parts of Europe, with Brexit and other countries looking to close borders and limit the aid which they give, and the production is a way to communicate the stories of these individuals and break barriers between people.

How did you come to understand the experiences of refugees and displaced persons and the challenges of resettlement?

We did our best to involve as many guest speakers as possible to come in and share their stories.  We invited in an Immigration and Refugee lawyer to speak to us and answer questions, we had a wonderful guest arranged through the Canadian Arab Institute who shared with us about being Muslim and choosing to wear the hijab.  We also had a Holocaust survivor who answered our questions about his experience in Auschwitz and someone from the 519 Community Centre who led a workshop on Trans issues in Canada.  These guests added to the our experiences of literally pulling texts from current event articles and using them as our new text/libretto for our opera.

Do you believe artists have a responsibility to incorporate current global issues into their performances?

Yes.  That’s the best and shortest answer.  I think as arts individuals and organizations we must be aware of what is going on in the world and respond to it through our art.  In many ways, we must be intentional if this has not been a part of our past.  Like learning to ride a bike, it’s difficult at first, but it’s because we want to.  From there, it only gets easier and easier.

What impact do you hope the performance will have?

I hope that the performances will cause our audience to reflect.  In the best case scenario, it would cause those to seek out change.  At the very worse, if we can move the conversation along and bring awareness, even if it is 1%, we are better off than we were.

Thank you to the cast and crew of BOUND for putting time aside to talk to us.

Kitty Shephard is the director of communications and outreach for WelcomeHomeTO