New play project to kick-off fifth annual Multicultural EXPO

By DAWN BOOTH, Connect Weekly

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Fort McKay North Wind Dancers with members of the Rocky Cree Boys of Rocky Mountain House on stage at last year’s EXPO. Photo by: GREG HALINDA

The 2016 Multicultural EXPO is celebrating its fifth anniversary by bringing in Banff theatre artist Colin Funk to direct the community play: UBUNTU TOWN.

The Multicultural EXPO is the Multicultural Association of Wood Buffalo’s (MAWB) annual flagship event and highlights the diverse cultural groups in the region with history, food, dance, activities and knowledge of residents’ background.

Last year, over 2,500 residents walked through the doors at MacDonald Island Park to attend. The 2016 milestone event will take place from noon to 5 p.m. on February 13 with 25 diverse cultural groups set to showcase in the exhibition.

To celebrate the half-decade anniversary, the UBUNTU TOWN performance is set to take the Keyano Recital Theatre stage – the night before – on February 12 at 7 p.m. The play includes a cast of 12 local actors and musicians – all of different cultures and age groups, who volunteered to take part.

Unlike traditional theatre, UBUNTU TOWN is as much of a community development project, as it is a play. Funk describes it as a storytelling production from Fort McMurray residents’ real life experiences.

“The community play project is a very unique theatre process. It is a simple, powerful and personal storytelling showcase,” said Funk.

“The community play project is a very unique theatre process. It is a simple, powerful and personal storytelling showcase,” said Funk. “I met with all of those interested in being part of the play during an orientation process/workshop on January 9… a few days later, I forwarded to each of the cast a personal story writing guide.”

According to the UBUNTU TOWN’s original Personal Story Creation Guide, “Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning ‘humanity to others’. It also means: ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’.”

Colin Funk

Colin Funk

Funk will be returning to Fort McMurray on February 7 for a week of intensive evening rehearsals, which will lead to the dress rehearsal and the February 12 performance.

“The UBUNTU TOWN is a big leap of faith for us, in terms of bringing multicultural people to the centre stage,” Executive Director of the MAWB Mary Thomas shared on the new play project.

Since 2010, Funk has been working closely in Fort McMurray’s social profit sector and is currently working with FuseSocial as the lead facilitator for the Leadership Wood Buffalo program. He describes this Fort McMurray experience as “unique” and “remarkable.”

“I have been introduced, over the years, to many non-profit groups and charities that are the backbone of the community,” Funk explained. “It is nothing less than remarkable to see the rich volunteer and active charitable sector in this community… working on this play project has only deepened my admiration and respect for the community.”

Events and Volunteer Coordinator of MAWB Rodas Asres believes this special project holds “the great promise of honouring and highlighting the wonderful layers of cultural diversity in the community and in showcasing Fort McMurray’s natural spirit of Ubuntu to citizens here and abroad,” as stated in a news release. “We hope you can join us in this unique community development project.”

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Representatives from the Somali Canadian Association of Fort McMurray and the Ethiopian booth with event volunteers at the 2015 Multicultural EXPO at MacDonald Island Park. Photo by: GREG HALINDA

Funk further mentioned there is a need for more musicians to help and they are looking for three to four musicians to play live during transitions between the scenes. Interested talent can contact Funk at email colinfunk@me.com.

“I believe that when people see this play they will realize that Fort McMurray is much more than just a resource town in transition, but that there is a tremendous base of humanity, strength, creativity and diversity here that can be greatly leveraged for assisting the community in successfully navigating an uncertain future,” Funk said.

UBUNTU TOWN is free for the public to attend. Guests attending the EXPO are asked to make a donation for a minimum of $5 for individuals and $10 for families. To learn more, visit www.multiculturefm.org

– Connect Weekly –