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Gillian Clark: Theatre is my activism

With violence against women becoming a burning issue in India, we spoke with Canadian interdisciplinary theatre artist Gillian Clark, who will put up an intriguing performance at this year’s Thespo festival

An emerging writer/director based out of Halifax in Canada, Gillian Clark graduated from the Dalhousie Theatre Program with a degree in acting only last year.

Gillian Clark Headshot

In a short span, Clark has had her work shown across Canada and in the UK while she was recently awarded as the Best Director at the 24th edition of the Atlantic Fringe Festival, a showcase for non-mainstream theatre, for her work, Legoland.

Currently in Mumbai for Thespo, Clark intends to put up a 30-minute piece (in collaboration with young Indian theatre artistes) that will reflect what sexual violence means to the urban Indian woman in comparison to a Canadian woman, with a focus on sexual abuse in the sex trade. Excerpts:

Q. How did you hear of Thespo in Canada?
A. This year, I was performing a section of my show Understudy, at the Magnetic North Theatre Festival, which is a Canadian festival that travels to a different city each year. It was held in my home city of Halifax. Quasar (Thakore Padamsee) from Q Theatre Productions was at the festival; we met and set the ball rolling to come to India!

Q. Your aim is to create a 30-minute piece that will play as part of the Fringe section at Thespo. How did you research for this and put it together? What about the casting?
A. In Canada, I have been working with a women’s centre, taking workshops on oppression and collecting stories of sexual violence, against all genders. I have also been in touch with Canadian sex worker activists and trying to learn as much as I can about the vague Bill C-37,  an act passed in 2009 to amend the Citizenship Act in Canada. In India, I have been working with a centre that rescues girls from the sex trade, I’ve made multiple visits to Kamathipura, and talked to many people about legalisation (of the trade), sexual exploitation and oppression. I am working with Indian actors Abhijeet Awari, Nitya Mathur, Saudamini Kalra, Gurleen Judge and Mansi Multani. It is important that this is a collaborative project because it is about sharing and learning about the sexual oppression and exploitation that happens in each country. Actors have devised their monologue, and we work on each piece, collectively. The pieces are in English, French, Marathi, Hindi and Hinglish. I love how each monologue is different and reflects the voice of each actor.

Q. You’ve played young characters in past plays, which have dealt with social issues. Now, you’ve picked sexual abuse in sex work. What inspires you to look at such topics?
A. Theatre is my activism.

Q. Why abuse in sex trade? What led you to the subject?
A. Sexual abuse in the sex trade reflects the oppression and exploitation of sexuality of not just women, but all persons in our cultures.  

On: Today, 7 pm onwards
At: Prithvi House, Janki Kutir, Juhu, Vile Parle (W).
Log on to: TO www.thespo.org

India and canada: same difference

“Canada and India have extremely vague laws surrounding prostitution. In both countries, prostitution is legal, but soliciting in public is illegal and this makes it difficult for workers to obtain rights, especially with respect to sexual abuse. That being said, this piece is not about drawing parallels. Each monologue is treated within its cultural context. If there are similarities that come out organically, then that is interesting. But, that's not our intent. The piece is about sharing,” elaborates Clark.

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