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Makambe Speaks interrogates and celebrates what it means to Albertan, Calgarian

Makambe K. Simamba describes the surprise that audiences are in for when they watch her new play, with a bit of a wry and dry sense of humour.

“Yeah, poor them,” Simamba said.

There’s nothing poor, however, about what attendees will get, as Simamba combines standup comedy, musical theatre, and maybe a touch of the absurd to create something unique for the stage.

The production runs from April 25 through May 6 at the West Village Theatre.

Makambe Speaks is, at its heart, a show about what it means to feel like being Albertan, and what it means to feel like Calgary is home.

“I’ve spent the last few years of my art practice based in Toronto, and it was really interesting being out there because when I would explain to people that I’m from Calgary, nobody believed me,” Simamba said.

“There was a really specific idea about the prairies, and in Calgary in particular, and I think it’s something that I’ve realized is people don’t realize how much of a rich cultural and artistic center we have here in the city that’s really special.”

She said that there is just something that always calls her back to the city.

“I know that that connection is complicated, and so this is kind of like an exploration of what that is,” Simamba said.

“Makambe Speaks, it’s like if you took an identity play, threw some shenanigans into it, and that rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland where when she goes down that hole, like there’s no turning back.”

She laughed when asked if the play was autobiographical in any way, saying that if it was in any way, it was a telling coming from a very unreliable narrator.

Simamba’s solo show is a joint production between Ghost River Theatre and Handsome Alice Theatre.

“Multidisciplinary solo shows are my thing, so I’m really excited to use my favourite form to shake things up a little, and ask questions about community versus individual identity and how those things come together,” Simamba said.

The production is directed and co-created by Ghost River Theatre’s artistic director Eric Rose, with dramaturg by Meg Farnhall.

Tickets are available now at www.ghostrivertheatre.com/makambe-speaks.

From Zambia to the Ponoka County Fair

Simamba said that as an artist, she has been caught between two cultures. One half of being Canadian, and the other half from her birth country of Zambia.

“I’m Canadian, but I was born in Zambia, so where do I exist within that?” Simamba asked.

“I sort of started thinking about all of the things that make this place special, despite the fact that it also frustrated me and broke my heart in different ways.”

She said that she has ended up living in multiple Canadian cities and in multiple countries but there was always a call to return to the prairies.

Not wanting to give away much of the show before audiences get a chance to see it for themselves, Simamba artfully dodged questions about some of the bigger set-piece stories that she’ll be telling on stage.

But she did let LWC in on one of the surprises: A visit to the Ponoka County Fair.

“First of all, it is really like two different cultures. You think like, it’s not that much of a drive? It’s kind of a very different space,” Simamba said.

“But this is, this is what I’ll give you: At the fair, I met somebody who changed my life. Sometimes you meet people that you’re not expecting, and the interaction or maybe even just the reflection afterward, it just changes the chemistry of your brain.”

She said that she loves Ponoka and the image it instantly forms in the minds of Albertans.

“Ponoka specifically elicits a certain kind of something that is different than if I say Lethbridge, or Calgary or even Red Deer. It’s a very specific vibe,” Simamba said.

“I think sort of what that vibe represents is one of the things that I’ve been contending with, as I’ve kind of been figuring out sort of where I fit within the mosaic of our province.”