The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

Local social justice-focused theatre company hosts event to raise money for future projects and charity

Wilt thumbOn Saturday, Nov. 26, a local theatre company threw a party in attempt to confront gendered and racial discrimination.

Ellipsis Tree Collective, which is the only Afrocentric theatre company in Western Canada, hosted its third annual fundraiser at the Old Ant Hill building in Kensington.

The night, which was called "Roots," included a variety of performances by actors, writers, poets, musicians and a puppeteer. An array of food — ranging from noodles to cupcakes — was provided, drinks were sold and various prizes ranging from spa packages to theatre tickets were auctioned off.

Janelle Cooper, artistic director of Ellipsis Tree Collective, says the event was held to raise the public's awareness of the theatre company, in addition to raising funds. Money raised was split between future events for the theatre company and a campaign called Because I Am A Girl.

DMEngaging with other social justice-focused movements such as Because I Am A Girl is a major focus of the theatre company, Cooper said. The campaign is run by the registered charity Plan International, and provides money for scholarships, school construction and health centres across the world specifically for girls.

"It seemed like a no-brainer to be able to give money towards scholarships for the education of young girls who otherwise would get pregnant and married off at 12 or 13 years-old. Being given the opportunity to do something for them is great."

The doors to the Old Ant Hill building, where Market Collective is usually held, swung open at 7:30 p.m. DJ Transform, also known as Scott Grubbe, played tunes for an hour-and-a-half as guests began to arrive. Once everyone had arrived, the formal program begun. Each performer took the stage for 10 to 15 minutes.

Photo-5Visual artist Shane Haltman continues to work on his canvas, which he calls a “paintrementary.” The vibrant colours are inspired by various emotions he feels in the room, such as love from couples and curiosity from passersby.
Photo by: James Wilt
In the back corner of the building, visual artist Shane Haltman painted on a donated canvas, which was auctioned off at the end of the night. The live painter drew inspiration from the environment around him and events that were happening. An abstract representation of the first performer, an actor, could be found in the bottom-left of the work. On the top right, a small Muppet-like character was drawn, symbolizing the short puppet show that had just taken place.

But the biggest component of the piece was the face of Martin Luther King Jr.

"I put Martin Luther King in here specifically because he talked about having a dream, and when it comes to theatre and art a lot of times it is about our dreams and visions. That's kind of the symbol, which seems like a pretty good choice."

Ellipsis Tree Collective has produced two plays in the three years it has existed: "Ruined" and the "Vagina Monologues." Both famous plays had direct connections to the plight of women in the world: the former told the story of a brothel in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while the latter contained a series of monologues read by women regarding topics that somehow related to the vagina.

Jen Kunlire, a spoken word artist who performed and emceed at the event, views the theatre company as a great face to Calgary culture.

"It's a very important thing for not only cultural perspective; it's also important for theatre companies," she says. "Theatre companies throughout Canada are predominantly Caucasian run, and by men. This was a really great surprise to have Ellipsis Tree with all women of colour come up and run this theatre company."

The amount of money raised has not yet been released.

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