Ce-Lee Productions is presenting an all-Winnipeg cast at the Fringe Festival, for a performance of an elderly Ukrainian couple to honour the heritage found in Manitoba's culture.
The play, Kateryna and Havrylo, follows an elderly Ukrainian-Canadian couple who live the regular lives of any rural Manitoban when suddenly they get pulled into a series of fantastical adventures.
Claire Borody, an Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre and Film at the University of Winnipeg, has been working on this play for a long time. It is based on the stories that her father used to tell her and her brother when they were children.
"He would make up fantasy stories of these two characters, Kateryna and Havrylo. He created these characters and they would usually be mushroom picking or something like a typical rural Manitoban activity and they would end up in these fantasy worlds," says Rachel E. Smith, Producer and Actor of the show. "And Claire, as she got older, just felt that those stories needed to continue to be told. So, she started working on this project and her father passed away several years ago and part of it too is honouring him."
Smith notes that all of her cast mates have taken courses under Borody, but not at the same time. It was because these people had taken her class on devised theatre that Borody chose them to play characters in her show.
"It's a very physical performance and she wanted people who had any background in devised theatre, which is what she specializes in. So, our rehearsal process was nothing like any of us have ever experienced before. It was very unique and she wanted artists that she knew would be able to do that."
Devised theatre is a method of theatre-making where the performance is created through collaboration and improvisation by an ensemble. Three scenes will be played out at this year's Fringe Festival, but they are part of a larger project with four scenes in total.
"There's definitely an awareness of what's happening," says Smith regarding the war in Ukraine.
"I have a Ukrainian background as well as Claire, and the actor who plays Havrylo also has some Ukrainian background as well and I think there might be a couple of other people who do. It affects us in an emotional way, I guess. I can't speak for everybody, but I know that Claire and I have talked about that it just makes us feel the need to honour the strong Ukrainian-Canadian culture that we have here. Kind of honour our ancestry."
Because of the war, Smith and Borody went back and read over the play to ensure that there were no themes or lines that would offend anyone or seem insensitive.
When asked how it feels to perform locally Smith says that she feels honoured to be able to perform for such a supportive and great community.
"I think we have a very vibrant art community here. Like, we are a small city, but the art that comes out of this place is pretty great. We have a community of really great artists, but also audiences who want to see local artists and performances and stuff. And we do have really great audiences too, so I think that this is kind of what makes it one of the best."
Kateryna and Havrylo is performing at Venue #2, MTC: Up the Alley. For more information on Winnipeg's Fringe Festival, visit its website.