Musagetes presents one-time theatre intervention by Miriam Cusson in Chelmsford, ON to a Crowd of 400!
As dusk fell on the town of Chelmsford on Wednesday, June 26, 2013, the sputter and crackle of car radios playing the prologue of Nowhere du Nord by Chelmsfordian playwright and director Miriam Cusson brought us to the crossroads of Main St. and Errington Ave.
400 people gathered at the foot of the church steps for the start of an outlandish gameshow. The game’s impish guides, the 7-person Bouffon Clump, wended their way around the concrete lot. When three pickup trucks rolled ominously into the lot in front of the gathered crowd, each carrying a bewildered contestant: a token Anglophone (John Turner), Francophone (Mélissa Rockburn), and Aboriginal (Bruce Naokwegijig), it became quickly apparent that each contestant would need to outwit, outplay and outlast each other in the style of Reality TV. The Trio (each representing one of the colliding and competing communities in Northern Ontario), the coy Bouffons, and the operatic Voice of Reason carried their story from the steps of the Paroisse St-Joseph, into l’École Alliance St-Joseph, and onward to the parking lot outside Buddies’ Algoma.
“The spin” became the focus for the play: how do you sell a city, a culture, a nation? This work imbues some of the most sensitive subjects and sacred cows with humour by maintaining a serious commitment to historical accuracy and lived experience. As each character related their painful childhood memories and more recent adult regrets to the audience, the Bouffon Clump took over, dramatizing and twisting these stories into marketable packages. Though they bought into the game’s rules at first, undercutting each other at any cost, the Trio eventually banded together to bring down its producers. By working together through the toughest of circumstances, all three of them emerged shaken but unscathed, instead of one survivor.
Musagetes’ Executive Director Shawn Van Sluys commented, “Nowhere du Nord was a complex project to realize as I’m sure all the co-creators would agree, but it is also one that will resonate with the people of Chelmsford and Sudbury for years to come. I’m so pleased with how beautifully Miriam was able to bring her creative vision to reality.”
Author and director Miriam Cusson assembled a dream team of actors, production crew members, designers, and creative comrades to collaborate with her on this nuanced, considered, and unforgettable work. She reflected, “This has been an enriching and incredibly formative experience. My most sincere thanks to Musagetes for the opportunity to explore the boundaries of this genre and push the limits of the creative process. I also offer my heartfelt recognition to the outstanding and generous team of artists who worked on this project. Never would I have expected such an impressive attendance. Toutes mes reconnaissances Chelmsford!”
One audience member remarked, “it makes me proud to live up here.” Cusson’s play is a compass needle, turning insistently back towards magnetic North whenever it is drawn elsewhere; it is a story for anyone who ever found it difficult to bridge the personal and universal but succeeded by returning to one’s own lived experience, by finding one’s own idea of North.
Nowhere du Nord is a project of Musagetes, an international organization that strives to make the arts more central and meaningful in peoples’ lives, in our communities, and in our societies. Musagetes works in Guelph, Sudbury, Lecce (Italy), and Rijeka (Croatia) to demonstrate how art can be participatory and socially engaged, to establish a greater sense of belonging in communities.
To see pictures of the evening, visit:https://www.facebook.com/musagetesfoundation
For more information or for media interviews: Danica Evering (Musagetes’ Project Assistant) at 519-546-7045 / firstname.lastname@example.org/musagetes-old
To learn more about the project: Alissa Firth-Eagland (Project Curator, Musagetes’ Program Manager) at 519-546-9662 / email@example.com/musagetes-old