Two distinctly different takes on the theme of family are among the highlights of this year’s Nakai Pivot Festival, which kicks off on Saturday, January 17 .
Ralph + Lina is a two-handed “acrobatic comedy” performed by the husband and wife team of Dan Watson and Christina Serra, who first conceived the project while they were drama students at Toronto’s Humber College several years ago.
They eventually co-wrote the piece with director Michele Smith, basing it on the story of Serra’s Italian-immigrant grandparents during and after World War II.
“It’s been one of the folk tales you have in families, and we’ve always wanted to do it,” Watson says.
The play includes melodramatic elements, like Ralph disappearing after going to war, and Lina being expected to marry someone else , before Ralph shows up alive.
“It’s kind of a situational comedy, but it’s just the two of us, so we play different parts and it moves very fast,” Watson says.
Ralph + Lina runs Wednesday, January 21 to Friday, January 23 at the Yukon Arts Centre, at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $25.
The two-part production, My Pregnant Brother/My Playwright Sister offers a different perspective on family matters.
Written and performed by Johanna Nutter, My Pregnant Brother took best show honours in the 2009 Montreal Fringe Festival before touring extensively in Canada and Europe, including last summer’s fringe festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.
In 2006, Nutter’s transgender brother, who was born anatomically female, had a baby daughter.
“He went through the pregnancy and birth identifying as a male, and I was there with him at the delivery of my niece,” Nutter says.
When her brother asked her to take on the role of mother and help raise the girl as a family, Nutter declined.
“This was at a time when I had resolved to stop being the parent in my family, taking care of everybody, including my own mother. This resulted in a lot of family drama,” Nutter explains .
By the time of last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, she says, her brother “was really getting tired of me telling his story, and he posted something on Facebook saying as much.
“I started receiving hate mail, and there were all these people saying I was exploiting my brother for fame and fortune, and that kind of thing.”
Nutter and her brother, James Diamond, got together and decided to make a kind of “response play” that would allow James to address the issues he had with her version of things, and also “tell his side of the story.”
The result is a two-hour production in two parts, starting with Nutter’s original play, with James looking on at the insistence of director Jesse Stong.
During the intermission, people make up their minds about what they have just seen, then “come back into the theatre as my brother gives his side of the story.”
Through performing the play , Nutter discovered that her “crazy story from another planet” had a universality that touched anyone who ever had the role of family caretaker.
Collaborating with James also widened Nutter’s own lens.
“I thought I already had a very wide perspective on transgender issues, but I can now see how some of the things I said in the first part would be received by members of the transgender community,” she says.
The back-to-back pieces play January 22-24 at the Old Fire Hall, with a 7:30 p.m. curtain. Nutter will also perform a French version of the first part, Mon Frère est Enceinte at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 21, in the same venue.
The full Pivot Festival schedule and ticket information can be found at www.pivotfestival.com.