Reviews: TRACE and STRETCH MARKS, from the IMPACT21 Festival

by Lynn on October 8, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live, in person in Victoria Park Tent, Kitchener and on-line as part of IMPACT21, hosted by MT Space, produced by Red Sky Performance (Toronto). Plays, Oct. 8 and 9, 2021.


Director and concept, Sandra Laronde

Choreography by Jera Wolfe

Music and sound design by Eliot Britton

Lighting by Alexis Bowles

Costumes by Kinoo Arcentales

Cast: Miyeko Ferguson

Lindsay Harpham

Tyler Layton-Olson

Sarah Di Lorio

Jessica Mak

Connor Mitton

From the production information: “We are traceable to the very beginnings of the universe, our ancestral origins stretching across the Milky Way to the atoms burning inside of us in the ‘her and now’ on earth. Trace is a highly kinetic contemporary dance work inspired by Indigenous (Anishinaabe) sky and star stories, offering a glimpse into our origin as well as our future evolution….

Red Sky Performance is a leading company of contemporary Indigenous performance in Canada and worldwide.

Led by Artistic Director Sandra Laronde of the Teme-Augama-Anishinaabe (People of the Deep Water), they are currently in their 18th year of dance, theatre, music and media.

Their mission is to create inspiring experiences of contemporary Indigenous arts and culture that transform society. They create, produce, and disseminate new creations and events that illuminate themes, aesthetics, and values of importance to Indigenous peoples.

They significantly influence the evolution of Indigenous-made work and share their work across Canadian provinces and territories and with the world.”

Dance has such a specific vocabulary that I confess I don’t possess. But the energy and pulse of Red Sky Performance is so visceral, so vivid that you are held in its thrall. The piece starts with a dancer being held aloft by her five colleagues, as if floating in space. Since the production information notes that this piece it inspired by Indigenous sky and star stories. That leads me to imagine the dancers are echoing space. As the description states,” it’s a highly kinetic dance work.” Eliot Britton’s percussive score pulses and throbs with energy, beat and propulsion. Jera Wolfe’s choreography makes one long to know what the vocabulary means and what stories are referenced. The piece takes you into another world and makes one want to know more, as all good art does.

Produced by Red Sky Performance

Performs: Oct. 9, 2021.

Running time: 60 minutes.

 Stretch Marks

Written and directed by Vanessa Spence

Costume, hair, make-up by Janissa Cyrus

Voice actor, Vanessa Spence

Cast: Sarah Nairne

From the production information: “Sasha, a pregnant, transracial adoptee, attempts to beat her gestational clock as she battles with her past, present, and future to decide whether she should keep her unplanned child or place them for adoption.”

Sasha is six weeks from her due date. As she starts her monologue, she muses: “How will it end?” She’s had eight months to think about her baby, the relationship that got her to this place, and her own issues with being a transracial adoptee.

Sasha weighs the pros and cons of an issue in order to make a decision. The problem is that she sees both sides equally and can’t make a decision. She thought of having an abortion when she found out she was pregnant. She weighed the pros and cons and could not decide. She is now six weeks from having the baby and has reasons for keeping the baby and for giving the baby up for adoption.

She is told she can be involved in the adoption process. Thinking about her own situation—being a transracial child adopted by a white couple—she looks through a book of couples who want to adopt. None are Black. This infuriates Sasha. How will the child know they are Black if they don’t have Black parents? It’s a problem she and we learn about in this compelling play.  Sasha had been asking about her birth mother for a long time and was only given the papers on her birth mother when she was 18-years-old.

Stretch Marks can look like the cyclical story of a young woman who gets pregnant and has to give up her baby for adoption. The baby grows up, gets pregnant and has to give up her baby for adoption. But Stretch Marks is much more than that.

Vanessa Spence is a thoughtful, graceful writer. She makes the audience patiently wait to hear how Sasha came to this situation. First we must learn about Sasha’s measured thinking; her dreams, hopes and happiness; her longings to learn about her birth mother; and then we learn about her relationship which resulted in this pregnancy.

We learn that Sasha didn’t realize that she didn’t look like her adoptive parents until she was four years old. Her parents never explained that she was adopted until she was 18 -years-old and that’s because her birth mother wanted her to be given the papers when Sasha was 18. That said, Sasha says her parents waited three months after she was 18-years-old before they told her. That hesitation rankled. She was never taught she was Black by her parents. She learned that from her bullying classmates.

Stretch Marks is a compelling play about race, dreams, hopes, love, identity and belonging. It is beautifully written by Vanessa Spence and acted with delicacy and nuance by Sarah Nairne.

This is the last show I’m seeing from this year’s IMPACT21 Festival. Each production has taken us into a different world with different stories and experiences. I love the selection of shows, the breadth of expression and being challenged. Love this festival.

Produced by Virtu Arts,

Performs: Oct. 9, 2021.

Running time: 70 minutes.

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