We sat down with Jivesh Parasram, 2018 Emerging Artist Award Finalist, to learn a little bit more about his inspiration and what it feels like to be nominated for this award.
What was your inspiration in founding Pandemic Theatre?
Well, there were 12 of us that started it. It started like every little theater group: a bunch of kids graduated from theatre school and wanted to do something. My colleague, Tom Arthur Davis, he called a meeting, and many of us met up and we're like 'OK, let's make a theatre company and call it 'Staged Pandemic' (because that’s a good idea...!) Though, I was pretty adamant - I didn't want to do it unless we did political theatre.
Can you talk about how politics inform your work?
If the aesthetic is the imaginary, where do we need to stretch our imagination in order to achieve political action to where we need to get to? How do we embed a political question in a piece that's current to the community we're representing?
What's the value of using arts as that vehicle?
It's like a rehearsal mechanism in a way. The world we live in is very political, obviously, everything is in a certain sense. The safety of theatre is that it gives you a chance to practice those things you can enact in everyday life. The play does not change the world, but if somebody sees it, maybe starts thinking a different way, then they can enact change in a different way. That's the politic.
Your new show, ‘Take D Milk, Nah?’ at Theatre Passe-Muraille looks at the intersection of different cultures and is based in part on personal storytelling. Can you tell us a bit more?
It's a storytelling-based show. It's about Hindu identity, Indo-Caribbean migration in Trinidad. Now, we have support from b-current, and Theatre Passe Murialle. With that support, the play grew larger. With that growth, we started to realize that the question was missing. There's no question being asked. We said to ourselves, 'What the hell, what's the point of even doing an identity play?' And that is a big part of it. We can all agree that identities are important, however, identities are inherently devices. That's very anti-Hindu. The past year I've been going back to Trinidad and researching. How do we really break it open, challenge the audience.
How does it feel to insert your own narrative into a piece?
It's way harder. I guess this is the most direct piece I've ever done, because so much of it is drawn from my experience. We do blend it quite a bit with politics, larger theory, and larger Hindu storytelling. It can be frustrating. It can mean I don't actually know what's good or useful. I need my collaborators to help me slash and burn, so to speak.
What does it mean to be nominated for this award?
It feels like a lot of acceptance. I grew up in the Maritimes; I'm from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Coming to Toronto where it's a vibrant city, I keep learning more and more every year, exploring different neighborhoods, meeting different populations. In a way to be nominated, it feels like it's an acceptance into the cultural fabric here, and that's really cool.