We Are Not The Others A collaboration by a McMaster associate professor and an actor, singer and writer for the Fringe festival

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By: Vanessa Polojac

Established from a study conducted within the Hamilton community, McMaster associate professor of Social Work Mirna E. Carranza collaborated alongside Toronto based, Persian-Canadian actor, singer and writer Izad Etemadi to create a story that explores the re-occurring struggles, sacrifices and issues that many newcomers to Canada face, particularly women.

In partnership with the Immigrant Working Centre, Emergency Support Committee and Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, Carranza’s research was developed through a series of interviews focused on immigrant women, their partners and children. The interviewees ranged from two to 35 years since their immigration to Canada. The objective was to understand the intersection between immigration, integration, trauma and mental health.

The idea of popular theatre was then brought to the attention of Carranza by the women whom she had interviewed.

“The women wanted an impact, rather than writing a report or a paper. I then began thinking, what can I do differently?”  explained Carranza.

During this time of her research, Carranza met Toronto playwright Eternadi when he mediated a panel about Syrian refugees at the immigrants working centre. The two instantly bounded over their passion for storytelling and began conceptualizing performance ideas.

In May 2016, the process had began. Eternai was given transcriptions and transformed them into a piece of theatre. The play centres around four young women and intersperses monologues with group scenes, telling emotional and memorable stories of their experiences of being new residents to Canada.

Some of these stories include: a young women who had fallen in love with a Canadian while on vacation and was forced to leave everything behind in her home country, a 12 year-old girl who moves to Hamilton with her family and sees the city as a terrifying place and a women who had just immigrated to Canada and is being stripped away from her ethnicity to conform to the new society she is now apart of.

“I just readjusted some of the wording to create a narrative. Everything came from the mouths of  these women,” explained Eternai.

We Are Not The Others was first performed by McMaster students at the Art Gallery of Hamilton during the time of the American election.

“You could see the mood change within the audience. It was such a vulnerable topic for the time,” said Ethernai.

“The women wanted an impact, rather than writing a report or a paper. I then began thinking, what can I do differently?”

Mirna E. Carranza

Associate professor of Social Work

Due to an overwhelming response from the first showcase, Ethernai and Carranza decided to hold open casting calls for young actresses within the local community. The cast was then composed of Rashanna Cumberbatch, who is a first generation Canadian actress to Guyanese parents, Heath V. Salazar a Columbian-Canadian Dora award winning trans writer, actor, singer and dancer, Sima Sepehri, who had immigrated to Canada from Iran at the age of six years old and works on shows such as Private Eyes, and Angela Sun Chinese-Canadian multi-talented performer who has been apart of SummerWorks, Paprika, and InspiraTO theatre festivals.

We Are Not The Others was one of 50 plays to be chosen to be apart of Hamilton’s 2017 Fringe Festival running from July 20 to 30.   The vast majority of people come to this country with the idea of hope.” said Carranza. Using music, poetry, and the real words of immigrant women, We Are Not The Others took audiences into the world of immigration that is full of struggles, pain, tears and hope.

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