Preview: Cantadora

The Silver Lining in Cantadora, an Acoustic Musical

by Ed Sum

Cantadora is a musical production that's both an interactive experience and a healing journey. Janet Walker, the creator of this play, reveals that this show is more about the coping mechanism that happens after any kind of visceral trauma has occurred. In this play, the heroine suffered from sexual abuse.

“There's nothing in the show that’s explicit or shocking,” said Walker, “It's an intimate observation, a journey of this woman, Cantadora, who has fallen down a rabbit hole. We've taken a lot of inspiration from Alice in Wonderland."

Instead of Lewis Carroll’s version, Walker is referring to artist Jan Švankmajer’s (Faust) interpretation of the classic children’s tale. This stop-motion film stays faithful to the source but is given a surrealist spin. Unlike the animation, there’s going to be puppets, music and masks–happiness and joy will be created in Cantadora. Her happy world is the focus in this play than the hard reality that's knocking at her door, which is threatening her safety.

Emma Zabloski, co-writer of this production, describes this show as a workshop performance. They’ll be asking for feedback after the show. Both performers have a mutual interest for interactive theatre and think breaking down the fourth wall is important. “We want to create a joint experience between us and the audience,” revealed Zabloski, “That in itself creates a sense of community.”

Walker further explains that experiencing a Haida Potlatch in Masset, BC five years ago showed her the need for using ritual and ceremony to initiate healing within this group. “Ceremonial dance and art has the power to bring about a shift in the consciousness of an individual,” said Walker, “I’m inspired to create theatre that’s not only entertainment.”

Like the potlatch, the play Walker and Zabloski designed may potentially empower everyone in the theatre.

But there’s also another inspiration, Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan's Labyrinth.” Both characters in the movie and this play had to learn how to cope. In the film, it was during a wartime situation. Both writers agree that the artistic masters of the Surrealist art movement were reacting to the trauma of World War I and against the constructs of society. A few of these post-modern artists, like Otto Dix, was using art as a medium to tell their story, like Dix’s “Self Portrait” series, and reveal to their audience that they’re not alone. In this play, the process of dealing with trauma is a personal struggle to be experienced within the subconscious mind.

Audiences get to witness Cantadora’s life behind her eyes and it’s filled with happiness and wonder. The eerie quality of that world is a natural part of what Surrealism is and people may talk about it.

“By touching on the issues we want to bring to light, you might be challenged to think,” said Walker.

Through theatre, the empowering nature of group therapy is not restricted to the storytellers. According to Zabloski, to create meaningful interactions between human beings, especially with the audience, is a healthy thing especially as this play evolves. Both her and Walker are using the performing arts to try and heal the world.

“We are touching on an issue that can affect everyone in society,” said Zabloski, “I think it's important for people to come together and work through it. It can be a unifying experience and it’s okay to talk about it.”

Two showing of Cantadora will take place Sept 17th, at 6pm and 9pm, at the Intrepid Theatre.

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