by Lynn on May 3, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

TAOS (The Art of Storytelling)

Live and in person, as part of Why Not Theatre’s RISER at the Theatre Centre, Toronto, Ont. until May 8, 2022

Lead curator/performer/producer, B’atz’ Recinos

Directed by Anita La Selva

Choreographer/performer, Lilia León

Lighting designed by Sebastian Marziali

Scenographer,  Rowell Soller

Musical director/band, Y Josephine

Band/performers, Giovanna Galuppo, Anita Graciano

Guest musicians; Pedro, Lwin and Yaxun Mateo

TAOS (The Art of Storytelling) is one of the productions being produced at the Theatre Centre under the RISER ‘umbrella’ of productions, an initiative of Why Not Theatre to give professional mentoring and expertise to immerging companies.

From the production’s information: “TAOS (The Art of Storytelling) is an artistic offering that is rooted in the ancestral theatre tradition, inspired by stories and teachings from the Mayan Popol Vuh. A theatrical journey through cultures, time and space, combining music, poetry, oral storytelling, dance, ritual and performed in three languages: English, Spanish, Maya (K’iche). A retelling of who we are by connecting to our ancestral voices, cosmic energy and the land. A timely story for anyone who has been digging deep to find their roots. For the children of he grey, los mestizxs, mixed bloods, hijxs de la diaspora. TAOS infuses Indigenous traditions with current cultural aesthetics bringing the audience on a theatrical journey through allegory and myth.”

Performance Warning: this show features smudging and the burning of sacred medicines: sage, tobacco, cedar, sweetgrass, copal and palo santo (throughout the performance).

TAOS (The Art of Storytelling) B’atz’ Recinos and his fellow musicians/performers welcomed us into the Incubator of the Theatre Centre and invited those who wished, to be ‘smudged’—purified with the sacred smoke of the burning sacred medicines. Large panels of vibrant artwork were on two walls. There was a section of the sunken stage given over to drums and other musical instruments and microphones. There was another vibrant coloured design that looked symbolic. B’atz’ Recinos’ upper body was painted or tattooed with markings that were evocative of Mayan culture. He also wore pants that allowed for him to move and dance freely about the set.

He began by paying homage to his ancestors in all directions of the room. He said he was going to bring us back to the beginning…to tell the story. His stories told of the beginning of time, when the sun and the moon were created, the animals, the birds. Then came the ‘children of the corn.’ There is a story of the underworld and various myths.

Of course one brings their own teachings, backgrounds and cultures to the production and therefore each story will have a different resonance to the listener. One is mindful of Indigenous stories of creation involving animals. Or one thinks of the Old Testament with some of the stories of creation. Or even ancient Greek literature with the stories of the Underworld. That is the beauty of theatre, no matter how different the culture, theatre bridges our differences and connects us to our similar stories and myths. Indeed at the end he says that “we are all one.” “All our relations.”

While the stories are deep, rich and metaphorical B’atz’ Recinos also infuses his show in various songs presented often as Hip Hop! He is a great follower of Hip Hop and so this ancient retelling evokes the most modern of musical expression. The musicianship of the band is exemplary. The music and the singing are wonderful.

There was a talk-back after the show and after much silence B’atz’ Recinos said that his aim was to “Break down the Western tradition of theatre” and go back to the ancestral theatre tradition.” I must confess I wondered why the Western Tradition of theatre had to be broken down at all—why can’t both forms of theatre, Western Traditional theatre and the ancestral theatre tradition exist side by side–just like people? What is this endless need to break down everything?

Lots to ponder.

Produced by Creative Mafia Arts

Plays until: May 8, 2022.

Running Time: 75 minutes.

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