Experiments in Difference: The Aesthetics and Ethics of Inclusive Performing Arts

January 2, 2024 Shrina Patel

In the heart of Alberta’s capital, Edmonton (amiskwaciwâskahikan), a collective of 15 diverse artists, academics, and cultural workers are preparing a transformative four-day event for the performing arts. This unique gathering will run from May 22nd to 25th, 2024, and will be hosted by the University of Alberta’s Department of Drama and MacEwan University. 

Creative Practice and Governance

The event is inspired by the Postmarginal Edmonton retreat that took place at the Westbury Theatre in September 2021. Around 40 invited participants will contribute to a dynamic exchange of ideas, weaving a tapestry of perspectives on performing arts that encompass ethnocultural, disabilities, neurodiversity, and gender fluidity. The overarching goal of these four days is to delve into the aesthetic possibilities of difference, emphasizing representation in the performing arts as both a social necessity and a creative opportunity. The event will attempt to illustrate how a plurality of artists can foster interwoven relationships that embrace cultural, ecological, social, and historical factors. Under the guiding principles of social representation, equality, and ethical relationships, the group will collaboratively develop experiences and knowledge, viewing differences between individuals as catalysts for creative inspiration and experimentation in the performing arts. This holistic approach aims to showcase the artistic expression and storytelling of marginalized perspectives.

The event’s activities will revolve around two central themes: creative practice and governance emerging from Postmarginal’s core values. Participants will engage in demonstrations of current practices by marginalized artists within the Edmonton community, fostering a deeper understanding of the local cultural landscape. Facilitated experiments in theatre practice will encourage innovative thinking, while round-table discussions on governance and ethical practices will provide a platform for open dialogue and shared insights. 

A New Hub for Postmarginal

A research partnership with the University of Alberta, MacEwan University and Staging Better Futures will document the event for ongoing academic research. This documentation will not only benefit the participating artists but also serve as a valuable resource for the broader Edmonton community, fostering awareness and understanding of the importance of representation in the performing arts.

A key aspiration of the retreat is the establishment of an ongoing theatre research collective in Edmonton grounded in Postmarginal’s principles. This collective aims to serve as a conduit for sharing the acquired knowledge and experiences with their respective communities in Edmonton, creating a ripple effect that transcends the boundaries of the retreat and contributes to the cultural vibrancy of the city. As Edmonton becomes the epicentre for this celebration of creativity inspired by difference, the event promises to be a pivotal moment in the ongoing conversation about representation in the performing arts. Through collaboration, experimentation, and open dialogue, the participants hope to inspire lasting change and foster a more inclusive and vibrant artistic community in the city. 

The production team is composed of  Soni Dasmohapatra, Chris Dodd, Tatiana Duque, Eric Rice and Peter Farbridge. 

The larger collective currently includes:  Amanda Bergen, Selena Couture, Lebo Disele, Soni Dasmohapatra, Chris Dodd, Tatiana Duque, Peter Farbridge, Heather Fitzsimmons-Frey, Sue Goberdhan (Azimuth Theatre), Hengameh Kharaghani, Josh Languedoc, Mūkonzi wa Mūsyoki, Eric Rice, Ken Williams, Shrina Patel, Jake Tkaczyk, Morgan Yamada (Azimuth Theatre), and Roya Yazdanmehr. 

Fiscal Partner: Azimuth Theatre

To find out more, or to get involved, please write to [email protected].