Migrant Workers Focus of Play

Posted Sep 15th, 2011 in In the News

Documentary theatre project sheds light on overlooked workforce


Mike Zettel, Niagara This week, September 15, 2011


They leave their homes and families behind and travel thousands of miles to work on Niagara farms for up eight months a year.


But for most of us, their presence is, if not invisible, than largely ignored.


This Sunday, a local theatre company hopes to shine a spotlight on the region’s vast migrant workforce with a multi-media stage documentary telling their stories.


Growing Together: A Celebration of Migrant Workers is produced by neXt Company Theatre, in collaboration with the Brock Centre for the Arts, In the Orchard Arts, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the 25-member organizations of the Niagara Migrant Workers Interest Group.


It is an extension of a prototype staged last year, which involved interviews with several workers.


“It went really well, and so we decided to expand on it,” said Daniel Abadie, co-artistic director of neXt.


“It recounts what migrant workers go through to be here, what kinds of challenges do they face and what we can do as Canadians to make them feel more welcome.”


The expanded project includes short theatrical vignettes, film interviews, puppetry and even a solo dance performance. Abadie said that despite the sometimes tough subject matter, the overall presention is quite entertaining.


Abadie said they strove to take a balanced approach to the project, noting that on most farms, though the work is strenuous, the workers are treated quite well. However, there are some “bad apples,” farms where workers are kept in crowded conditions, sleeping in bunks where they can’t even sit up without bumping their heads.


Abadie said the team spoke with a number of farmers in order to get their point of view, and their comments are included in the film.


Overall, through, the play is a celebration of these workers and the crucial contribution they make to Niagara’s $2.8-billion agriculture industry.


“They do a lot of work for our thriving agriculture community here, and it needs to be recognized,” he said.


Members of neXt worked with local filmmaker Tracy Van Oosten to interview subjects over the summer, and Abadie said many who were reluctant to show their faces last time around out of fear of being sent home for complaining were less so this time.


“Some of them have come forward, and they’re not afraid of being seen,” he said.


The presentaton takes place this Sunday at Brock’s Sean O’Sullivan Theatre at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 and are on sale at the Centre for the Arts Box Office. Call 905-688-5550, ext 3257 or visit www.arts.brocku.ca/boxoffice.


Proceeds will go towards a scholarship fund for children of migrant workers, which is being administered by the Niagara Community Foundation and includes tuition wavers from Brock and Niagara College.


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  • "I'm a huge fan of neXt Company Theatre's ability to engage the public in a generous way but at the same time not shy away from the political complexity of the real-world events they put on stage. Frickin' awesome! So happy to live in Niagara!"
    - A. Jarry, Grimsby

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