When the Russians illegally invaded Ukraine nearly two years ago, actress Snizhana Bora was forced to flee her home country with her four-year-old daughter leaving behind her husband, brother, and other family members.
Literally uprooted from her home, she along with other women who are themselves immigrants to Canada, will be showcasing their stories on stage in Calgary through the aptly named Uprooted, taking place at the Joyce Doolittle Theatre on Nov. 24 and 25.
“We have participants—one from Ukraine, two from Mexico, and one from Venezuela—each of them is in different stages on the immigration journey,” said Uprooted’s director, Geraldine Fuenmayor, an immigrant herself.
“The most important thing is that we supported them with all the elements in the production for the show they wanted to present.”
The show weaves together the narratives of the Bora, along with fellow performers Mariana Romero, Ivanna Solera, and Antares Ramirez, while at the same time, giving each of them the freedom to explore their portion of the play in creative and artistic ways.
“It’s about emotion and also how it flows,” said Fuenmayor.
“Some people are more like they want to tell how they feel, they want to do more movement, instead of text. For some people, it is the other way around, their strength is more about the storytelling part.”
What audiences can expect is a production that helps to illuminate and to produce a greater understanding of what it means to become an immigrant—a depth of understanding that goes beyond the surface-level understanding of the word.
“In Canada, or here in Alberta, or in Calgary where we are, ‘immigrants,’ it’s a word that doesn’t really tell anything, because there’s so many different cultures. It’s so different, someone having the experience to immigrate to Canada when you have never done anything in your life in English,” said Fuenmayor.
“I know that immigrants from India or the Philippines and many other countries, they do things in English, they studied in English. But from Latin America, or even people from Korea, it’s a huge change because it’s a different language, but it’s also different cultures.”
Breaking apart that idea of what it means to be an immigrant, and letting women tell their own individual stories, was at the heart of Uprooted.
“I want the audience to get an idea of how brave you have to be to deal with all the things that are presented to you and your new life,” said Fuenmayor.
Uprooted is a production of Handsome Alice Theatre, which has worked since 2005 to produce theatre that supports women, non-binary, and transgender individuals.
Tickets are $26.84, and can be purchased at www.universe.com/events/uprooted-tickets-Z978GP.
A happy circumstance for unhappy circumstances
Bora, prior to leaving Ukraine, had created for herself a thriving acting career that had her perform on both stage and television in her home country.
Travelling to Canada meant starting over, dealing with uncertainty over housing and employment, all while trying to provide a new life for she and her daughter.
Bora came to be a part of Uprooted after approaching Theatre Calgary about the opportunity to act in the city, and by chance was connected with Soleran who then connected her with the show’s producer, Meg Farhall.
In her part of the production, Bora said that she wanted to create a work of art that transcended the language barrier allowing anyone to understand her story.
“What happened me, I transfer to pictures, and I’m transferring these pictures to acting,” she said.
“I’m taking my experience from life to the stage. My part will be without words. I will say just by body and the physical theatre, and I will sing a song. It will be mostly physical so everybody can understand it without language.”
She said that everyone in Uprooted was bringing something wonderful to the stage.
“These girls are beautiful. Everybody came from another country, and they have the experience. They’re like a psychology group because I can talk with everybody and I can feel free in my feelings to what I’m feeling now,” Bora said.
As part of her performance, Bora said that she hoped to remind Calgarians about the unique situation that her country is in, and the unique situation that immigrants from Ukraine find themselves in, in Calgary.
“I want to remind people, there’s still war and people should remember it… I want to show real life, the whole Ukrainian people who live in it every day.”