Celebrating the abundant contributions by which Winnipeg theatre artists of Mennonite background have enriched the art form, this issue, guest edited by Per Brask, includes commissioned essays by director Kim McCaw, designer Brian Perchaluk, actress Tracy Penner, writer Marriiane Mays Wiebe and academic Bill Kerr about Mennonite theatre since the first production of Patrick Friesen’s The Shunning directed by Kim McCaw in the old Prairie Theatre Exchange space in 1985. MORE>
According to the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO), Mennonites have been involved in theatre-making since the seventeenth century in Holland. However, it was scorned by countless congregations as a worldly amusement, both the making of it and watching it.
A ban on theatre was upheld by many Mennonite groups in North America well into the twentieth century, after which theatrical activities increased in religious schools, colleges, and church and amateur groups, many productions emphasizing biblical or morally instructive themes. In this theatre issue of Rhubarb, Lesley Glendinning describes how much theatrical activity in Manitoba took the form of skits in Low German for home and community entertainment.
GAMEO also maintains that it wasn’t until the 1960s that professional artists of Mennonite background appeared, like the New York set-designer Karl Eigsti who was explicit about his roots and their influence on him.
Here in Winnipeg things really got going in the mainstream culture in the mid-1980s, when two shows dealing with Mennonites were produced close together: Anne Chislett’s Quiet in the Land at Manitoba Theatre Centre and Patrick Friesen’s The Shunning at the Prairie Theatre Exchange (PTE). The latter was part of Kim McCaw’s visionary leadership of PTE, a time when he commissioned Manitoba writers to develop plays grown out of our variegated cultural landscape. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that Friesen’s play encouraged many aspiring Mennonite theatre-makers that their aspirations were in fact possible, that there was room for their stories in the local theatre culture.
One is tempted to say that the rest is history.
Since the mid-80s, Mennonites in Manitoba have made significant and, as this issue illustrates, superb contributions to the general theatre scene. More >
Here’s the question: should I write the way I do, or the way I want to?
What I mean is; when it comes to writing, I have a unique style. Every writer does. From the moment you learn your ABCs, you’ve begun garnering yourself a sui generis approach. By the time you’ve conquered cursive, you’re well on your way to distinguishing your personal literary voice.
This approach is not set in stone; your method will, by necessity, continue to evolve over time.
Yet by the time you reach my ancient age, your style, technique, method, or however you wish to classify your talent will more or less have solidified, or at least reached a thick clay-like consistency. This is not to say you or I are unable to evolve further, but it does mean that it’s going to get more and more difficult as the decades zip by.