UPDATE JANUARY 18, 2022:
For the safety of our team and the participants in RISER Edmonton, we have postponed the premieres of the RISER 2022 participants. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for an announcement about rescheduled live performances from these incredible artists.
A bold new platform for producing theatre is coming to Edmonton! Alongside our friends at Why Not Theatre, Common Ground Arts Society is elated to announce the first four projects to participate in RISER Edmonton.
Through RISER Edmonton, four Edmonton-based performing artists and companies will receive support from Common Ground Arts Society and our Senior Partners in the form of rehearsal and performance space, technical and creative support, and a year of mentorship and project development. Cuban Movements Dance Academy, Even Gilchrist, NASRA, and Tai Amy Grauman make up the inaugural cohort, whose year of support have been underway throughout Spring and Summer 2021. The four participating companies will each debut a new project in the Backstage Theatre at the ATB Financial Arts Barns in February 2022.
Read on to learn more about our inaugural participants and their projects!
We are incredibly grateful for the support of our partner, Why Not Theatre, who originated RISER in Toronto in 2014; support from the Government of Canada, the RBC Foundation for RISER’s national expansion; our Senior Partners at Edmonton Fringe Theatre, Citadel Theatre, Catalyst Theatre, and Azimuth Theatre; and our funders, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Edmonton Arts Council, and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.
The RISER Edmonton cohort was selected through a jury of Edmonton-based artists from a variety of artistic and personal backgrounds. Submissions were adjudicated on the criteria of Diversity in form and content, Need for the artist to gain further access to supports and audience, Experience of the producers before joining the program, and Feasibility of the project proposed.
Tickets, performance schedules, and more will be available at commongroundarts.ca/riser in December 2021. Click here to join the CGAS mailing list for ticket on-sale announcements, and more details about applications for RISER 2023, all coming soon!
About Leo & Cuban Movements:
Leo Gonzalez was born and raised in Havana and took his first steps in dance with a dance group that was part of the iconic Casa de la Cultura in Havana. In 2003, he was selected to study at the prestigious National College of Art and Music Shows (ENAEM) in Havana, becoming a professional dancer and choreographer with extensive knowledge of traditional Cuban and international dances. After completing his undergraduate studies, he was chosen by the prestigious dance company Santiago Alfonso, whose principal was the director of the world-renowned Tropicana Dance and Music Show in Havana. After moving to Edmonton in 2013 he started the Cuban Movements Dance Academy to share his passion and love for Cuban dance with the Edmonton community. In 2020, he was awarded the Mowat Diversity Award by the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival for Mi Habana Querida. This original dance musical is a 1-hour immersion in the rich cultural heritage of Cuba through a dance journey from traditional AfroCuban to the modern styles of today and debuted with great success at the 2021 Edmonton Fringe Festival. In 2021 he was selected by the Good Women Collective to be part of their showcase for Expanse 2021, a dance and movement festival part of the Chinook Series in Edmonton. For Expanse, he showcased the concept of The Power of the Drum, an original piece that combines a fusion of AfroCuban and contemporary dance, drumming and narrative.
About The Power of the Drum:
The Power of the Drum pays homage to the power of the drum as a reflection of the resilience, adaptability, creativity, and autonomy of the Cuban Diaspora in the midst of struggle, crisis, and uncertainty. It is based on the premise that for the AfroCuban people, arts and culture are not just forms of entertainment, but messengers and affirmations of culture and spirituality that form an essential part of both collective and personal identities. At the center of Cuban arts and culture are the African drums, which were taken away when Africans were enslaved by the Spanish slave masters. In response they creatively used their own bodies as a form of instrument, maintaining their roots and traditions and remaining resilient through rhythm, community, spirituality, and dance.
Other collaborators on The Power of the Drum include Cecilia Ferreyra (Producer, Playwright, Art Director and Narrator), Raydel Martinez Portuondo (Assistant Choreographer and Dancer), Nathan Ouellette (Musical Director and Drummer), Tyler Baker (Artistic Photographer, Visuals and Exhibit), and Kena Leon (Stage Manager).
From Cuban Movements:
“I am thrilled for the opportunity to develop The Power of the Drum into a full theatre production that will do justice to its objective, so relevant not only for the current political situation in my home country but the issues that sadly still persist with people of African heritage in North America. I believe the story of resilience and hope that is at the heart of The Power of the Drum is a story that needs to be told, and the support of RISER Edmonton will truly enable me and my collective creative team to bring it to its full creative potential.”
-Leo Gonzalez, Cuban Movements Dance
Even Gilchrist is a theatre creator and designer who moved to Edmonton from Ottawa to pursue his MFA in theatre design at the University of Alberta. He is a queer and trans artist, excited about projects that aim to build collaborative and transformative experiences for everyone. Selected credits of his work include include Love From Afar (Set Design – a Company of Fools), All That Binds Us (Assistant Design – Azimuth Theatre), Puppet Pub Crawl (Creator and Producer – Found Festival 2021), and will be fulfilling his thesis production design this November with God of Carnage at the Timms Studio Theatre, directed by Pat Darbasie.
A trans man and his idealized cis self enter the room, inviting onlookers to a very brave thing on the best day, the most perfect day ever. A guided meditation, a group retreat, a paint night, whatever it takes — together, if they just erase the image there, remove a memory here, edit the names, refine the story, refine the story… maybe perfection will be attainable in the end after all.
Also collaborating on Re:Construct is Sarah J Culkin (Director).
“Re:Construct was created back in 2018 for the Ottawa Fringe Festival. It was originally a series of love letters to a thirteen year old self, giving them back the grace and permission to question and love themselves at the same time. I’m excited to share a renewed version of this play for Edmonton, for new audiences, for fellow queer and trans folks, for people like me who need a reminder that we are allowed to love who were are now and who we were in retrospect. ”
NASRA is a queer Oromo/Somali actor, poet, singer and movement artist based in Amiskwaciywaskahikan (Edmonton) on Treaty 6 territory. Nasra acts as Director/Founder of Black Arts Matter- Alberta’s interdisciplinary Black Arts festival, and was a former Youth Poet Laureate of Edmonton. Their debut chapbook A God Dance in Human Cloth was the co-recipient of the Bp Nichols National Chapbook Award and their newly released ep “Salve” is their latest call to healing; a blend of herbal medicine, genre bending poetics and bass driven sound. Their he(art)work centres the joy, autonomy and freedom of Black/Indigenous Peoples everywhere.
DNAPLAY incorporates short film, live music, storytelling and movement, in an intimate theatre experience venerating the regular-degular as ritual. Through playing across mediums and DNA we find strands and strands of intersecting medicine; a ceremonial glimpse into what sustains this queer African Indigenous life. What happens when we bend mundanity into a sacred space.
Other collaborators on DNAPLAY include Kaz Mega, Salem Clarke, Shia Sankofa, and Imani Khalifa.
“This show is a glorified Instagram photodump, and I say that with the utmost respect for myself and my art! To me, it’s about celebrating everything I already am, what I would already be doing without an official title or degree; it’s a love letter to the intersections that weave me through trauma and thriving, playing and labouring. DNAPLAY is a reminder to myself and especially fellow ‘marginalized’ creators that the process is LITERALLY the point and this big bad healing thing *Lauryn Hill voice* ‘could all be so simple.’”
Tai Amy Grauman is Metis, Cree, and Haudenosaunee from Ardrossan, Alberta. She is an actor, playwright and emerging director and producer. Tai is an artistic associate at Savage Society, an associate artist at the Citadel Theatre, and currently pursuing her MFA in theatre practice at the U of A. She was named the Metis Nation of Alberta’s Outstanding Youth of 2020. Tai is currently writing commissions for Nightswimming, Axis Theatre, and the Arts Club. Selected acting credits include: Mary’s Wedding: A Metis Love Story, (Citadel Theatre), Honour Beat (Grand Theatre), Thanks For Giving (Arts Club). ‘You used to call me Marie…’ (Savage Productions Society). Upcoming: Vanessa Brokenhorn in The Herd (The Citadel/Tarragon Theatre). Assistant Director for Little Red Warrior and His Lawyer (The Belfry/Savage Productions Society). Marie in ‘You used to call me Marie…’ with Savage Productions Society.
Wiwimaw tells two interwoven stories of Metis sisters, Marie and Rose Callihoo, between the height of the fur trade (1860s) and the age of road allowance peoples during the Great Depression (1930s).
“Metis women are the heart of the Metis Nation.” (LMFO’s MMIW report. June 30th, 2019).
Other collaborators on Wiwimaw include Lois Anderson (Director), Brittany Ryan (Creative Producer), Madelaine McCallum (dancer and choreography) and Kathleen Nisbet (Music Composition). Wiwimaw was commissioned by Nightswimming, and will feature performers Julie Lumsden and Tai Amy Grauman.
“For about four years, all I have been writing are Metis love stories. Wiwimaw is the counterpoint to the love stories I have already written, it is the stories of the women behind closed doors out of sight and out of mind of Metis men. Rooted in two of the most crucial and devastating historical eras for Metis women, this play is about what women say to each other about men. If you were to write a love letter to your ancestors, what would it say? ”
-Tai Amy Grauman
Mac Brock (he/him)
Managing Producer, RISER Edmonton