The Big House is a theatrical feast created for, with, and about the founding Coast Salish and immigrant communities of the Downtown Eastside.
Developed by Vancouver Moving Theatre, in partnerships with over five Downtown Eastside organizations and Toronto’s Jumblies Theatre, this is what they say: “The Big House is all about connection. It is about coming together under one roof to share with each other through food, stories and art. We are preparing a feast, creating a theatrical event and breaking bread together. As we build The Big House – sharing resources, culture and good, healthy food – creative things can happen, new connections form and relationships renew.
At a time when our founding communities have damaged and broken relationships to repair and new relationships to forge where none existed, the Downtown Eastside needs community more than ever. A hurricane of accelerating change threatens to displace residents and divide groups into those that matter and those that don’t. How do we live and work together in the Downtown Eastside in the shadow of Canada’s history of colonialism and the city’s history of development?
In the indigenous traditions of our neighbourhood’s founding communities, feasts are a time for nourishing relationships, marking important events, offering gifts and acknowledgements, sharing learning and teaching: a storehouse of memories for the future.
The Big House is re-creating feasting in an urban context. We will mark memories of our communities coming together; acknowledge land, waterways, and gathering places that keep our community strong; share cultural teachings around food and hospitality; mourn what has been displaced, lost or forgotten; listen to youth and elders, and honour the neighbourhood’s continuity, its wisdom. We are weaving together oral history and cultural teachings, poetry and song, drumming and design, theatre and dance with culinary art. Witnessing and creating shared memories, we celebrate who we are, acknowledge where we come from, what’s left behind, what’s preserved; we stand facing the future.”- Vancouver Moving Theatre
I was honored to be hired as the lead designer for the Fall Project which was held Nov.2014 in conjunction with the Heart of the City Festival. The theme of the night was “keeping the home-fires burning” and there was much pre-event investegation through oral story sharing and listening from story-tellers such as Vancouver Public Library’s resident story-teller and culinary artist Rosemary Georgeson. The challenge was to design and facilitate the making of interactive table art and room decor so that these piece could be made by members of the community in a series of workshops to be held at the Carnegie Centre and the Aboriginal Front Door. I was fortunate to work with the very talented Haisla Collins and Bill Beauregard as assistants who lent their hands, hearts and expertise to the project. In keeping with the theme, we built together with the community, a couple different styles of “light carriers” such as glass jar table lanterns, paper-cut house boxes and one giant baby phoenix lantern. Almost all of the supplies we used where re-purposed, re-cycled and sourced through scraps and donations.
The room was stunning, and the night itself was a beautiful gathering of ritual and celebration.