Odyssey Theatre spreads its roots with Canada 150 arts project

Ottawa’s Odyssey Theatre is recruiting Stittsville residents and community arts groups to participate in Spreading Roots, a community art project in conjunction with AOE Arts Council’s Neighbourhood Arts 150 project.

The group is holding an initial meeting on Thursday, May 4, upstairs at Sobey’s at 7pm.

Spreading Roots is Odyssey’s theatre-based community arts project that aims to draw together elders, children, youth and adults to create a pageantry celebration of their neighbourhood trees. The group is one of twelve artists and arts organizations celebrating Canada 150 and Ontario 150.

Together with professional artists and environmentalists, community members will create a performance event that recognizes and celebrates their neighbourhood trees as members of their community through storytelling, theatre, dance and song, and which culminates in welcoming and planting new trees in their community.  

The project takes its inspiration from the medieval “pageant play”, which will allow the project to incorporate distinct forms of local culture – a church choir, a senior’s dance company, children making puppets.

Working from two central themes – the importance of trees, and the vitality of different generations working collaboratively – Odyssey Theatre will lead community members through the creative process in a series of three workshops:  research (in collaboration with environmentalists and our writer), artistic creation (masks, puppetry, movement and drama) and rehearsal leading up to the final performance.

As the theme of Spreading Roots focuses on the importance of trees in a community, a core element of our research will be to discover how each community values the trees specific to their neighbourhood. Some may be concerned with environmental protection. For others, a specific tree might be a presence they grew up with. For some, trees are important gathering places. The act of “gathering” is vital to this project and its process.

Odyssey’s creative team of theatre artists (Director Rebecca Benson, Composer and Music Coach Vanessa Lachance, and Collaborative Writer Jacqui du Toit) will work with different communities across Ottawa, including Stittsville.

In each community, the team will work with a group of 15 – 40 participants, representing its cultural, generational, and physical diversity. These participants would be drawn from existing arts or activity groups in the community (for example a dance or singing group) and from interested members of the community at large.

In the three creative workshops, each group will generate some of their own material, based on issues regarding their trees that matter to them, as well as rehearse existing material for the final performance.   There will be a final group rehearsal with the Creative Team the day before the performance. Environmentalists will guide and assist the Community participants in preparation for the celebratory tree planting which concludes the event.

For more information, contact Rebecca Benson at spreadingrootsodyssey@gmail.com


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