Everyone is Welcome: Jumblies Theatre at Cedar Ridge

Jumblies Theatre is doing a community arts residency in East Scarborough. In collaboration with Toronto Cultural Services and Cedar Ridge Creative Centre, Like An Old Tale is ‘an evolving installation, storytelling and performance event’.

Tamil Seniors Perform Like An Old Tale

On Thursday May 6th, a big yellow schoolbus picked me up from Kennedy Station and whisked me away to Cedar Ridge, the temporary home of Jumblies Theatre. That evening, I was lucky enough to witness a work-in-progress performance of Like An Old Tale. It’s hard to describe the experience without using words like ‘multilingual, intergenerational, cross-cultural, and multidisciplinary’, which don’t really capture the lighthearted immediacy of the show. I strongly recommend you check it out for yourself!

Beth Helmers, who is one of the lead artists for Like An Old Tale, was kind enough to chat with me about the Jumblies experience and this continuously evolving piece.

What is at the core of the Jumblies philosophy?

Everyone is welcome. In our work, we are constantly dealing with the implications of saying that and meaning it.

Everyone is welcome. In our work, we are constantly dealing with the implications of saying that and meaning it.

Who do you work with?
Some of the groups we are working with include: the Tamil Seniors and other Westhill Community Services seniors’ programs, youth and children from Family Residence, Arts4All, TDSB Newcomer Services for Youth, Willow Park Junior Public School, Native Child and Family Services, Mabelle Arts, lobby art participants at several Toronto Community Housing buildings, and Jumblies alumni.

Bear masks on gallery wall

How would you describe Like An Old Tale?
Think of it as a performance-installation.  You can come to the gallery – there are visual and media arts elements like the masks and the film. There’s a storytelling component. Every time the story is told, it’s unique; different community groups share something that they have created each time we tell it.

There’s a storytelling component. Every time the story is told, it’s unique; different community groups share something that they have created each time we tell it.

What stage are you at?
We’re at the development stage; this is a work-in-progress. Each day a new group performs and has their storybill posted on the gallery wall. Sometimes one group will come up with something that seems really essential, and we will try to keep that element in future storytellings.

How many languages are used in this piece?
It includes Tamil, Greek, Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese, and Mandarin. There’s a large Sri Lankan community in the area and we started working with the Tamil Seniors; we eventually reconnected with Sharada Eswar, a Tamil-speaking artist and storyteller who has worked with Jumblies before. Everything in the performance has been translated through people we know.

Performers in Gallery

What are some of the challenges for a show like this?
Many of the normal challenges of community work – coping with people of different backgrounds, abilities, & levels of experience coming together. It’s challenging, but it’s also great to incorporate this diversity.

Transient Participants
We’re also working with people living in the shelter and motels – this is a really transient group of participants. We’ll get to know someone and work with them and then they move and we can’t contact them any more. How can we create something so that they can leave a trace of themselves, leave their mark on the final product? We try to give them something they can take with them – but sometimes there’s no warning.

We’ll get to know someone and work with them and then they move and we can’t contact them any more. How can we create something so that they can leave a trace of themselves, leave their mark on the final product? We try to give them something they can take with them – but sometimes there’s no warning.

Shuttle Buses
A major challenge of working in Scarborough is that it’s very car-dependent. A lot of participants take the bus, they don’t have vehicles. Many of them are seniors and children. We have to budget a lot for transportation.  Recently, we put out a fundraising call to help us organize a shuttle bus, and response to the fundraising request has been great.

DPC Visitors

How has it been working with Cedar Ridge?
It’s been fantastic! Cedar Ridge has been so supportive – they’re enthusiastic about bringing people in, connecting to the community. It’s a beautiful environment to work in.

We’ve been here for a year and a bit, meeting different groups. The Nesting project we did last year was about meeting people.

Masked Performer

With this year’s project, Like An Old Tale, we started holding workshops with some of those groups around the themes of the Shakespeare play The Winter’s Tale. The gallery is like a lab – we’re trying lots of different things. The storytelling performance is very improvised, based on the group and the artist. Everything is evolving – new things get added every day. We’re using the play and working with the themes of the play to connect with stories in the community. We’re using it as a springboard to share the experiences of our participants.

The gallery is like a lab – we’re trying lots of different things. The storytelling performance is very improvised, based on the group and the artist. Everything is evolving – new things get added every day. We’re using the play and working with the themes of the play to connect with stories in the community. We’re using it as a springboard to share the experiences of our participants.

What happens next?
Next year we continue developing and rehearsing, and in May or June we will present the large scale community piece. The fourth year is about legacy and sustainability. What can we give to the community that can stay once we’re gone?

Group of performers with hands together

Get involved
Other upcoming projects from Jumblies Theatre offshoots:
It Happened In My Apartment, organized by Arts4All
Lantern Garden and the Path Project this summer, organized by MabelleArts

Jumblies will be back at Cedar Ridge in the fall. If you want to get involved in Jumblies projects, contact Ruth Howard at info@jumbliestheatre.org

The work-in-progress show runs until May 14th – contact Jumblies for more details. The final piece will be presented in the spring of 2011.

Skye Louis is the Neighbourhood Arts Network Coordinator

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2 thoughts on “Everyone is Welcome: Jumblies Theatre at Cedar Ridge

  1. Hi,
    I am Rosamma George, Manager of Community Development at the Warden woods community centre.
    I heard about the jumblies programme and I wanted to know if you conduct this progrmme for the youth and community at our community centre. Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Best
    Rosamma

  2. Pingback: Reflections on Artistic Excellence «

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