BY: ALYSSA MAHADEO
Who am I? How can I prove to the world who I am? Why do I have to prove my identity to anybody?
The truth is, with the current state of affairs in the world people are always on the defense. Years of racism, prejudice, and negative stereotypes have followed the marginalized groups of the greater population for generations, and quite frankly everyone is tired of it.
In Canada, we like to brag about the diversity of our communities, and how accepting we are of other people’s cultures. While we’ve done a great job of trying to make everyone feel included some of us are still partial to the segregation we face when someone asks the question, “But where are you really from?”
For many first-generation Canadians, the children of immigrants, refugees, and people who were promised a better life by coming here, one of the biggest challenges we face is the conversation surrounding identity.
Written by Jivesh Parasram and directed by Tom Arthur Davis Take d Milk, Nah? is the final production in Theatre Passe Muraille’s 50th-anniversary season in a co-production with Pandemic Theatre and b current performing arts.
Jivesh Parasram (Jiv) is a multidisciplinary artist, researcher and facilitator of Indo-Caribbean descent. His work has been showcased across Canada and internationally. He is an artistic producer at Pandemic Theatre which has been busy working on other productions that cover a wide range of controversial topics and explores why people are pushed into extreme circumstances.
Prior to seeing the play, I was only aware that the main character in the play was Jiv, a man who was a blend of “Canadian,” “Indian,” “Hindu,” “West Indian,” and “Trinidadian” too. I was immediately drawn to this boy as his background was identical to mine and I had never experienced an identity play.
In Take d Milk, Nah? Jiv blends personal storytelling and Hindu rituals to walk the audience through the Hin-do’s and Hin-don’ts at the intersections of all these cultures. As with any story, one would assume there is a beginning, middle, and end, however, as a Hindu that’s not how our stories are understood. Hindu storytelling starts with the recounting of religious scripture followed by a lecture explaining the morals of those stories.
Initially, Jiv had been unwilling to write an identity play, encouraged by Graham Isador the dramaturge/co-creator of Take d Milk Nah? who was inspired by a story Jiv once told about how he helped to birth a cow…kinda…”
The play shares a very genuine, and comedic story speaking of race, religion, and nationalism. For someone who has experienced racism or is a part of a marginalized community, it’s an eye-opening and honest recollection of ideas that we may have considered or experienced in our own existence. Often there is a discrepancy between a person’s role identities, which is when a disconnect occurs and individuals become confused as to how to make sense of their situation.
In Take d Milk, Nah? one dives head first into the conversations of what divides us and what we’re willing to accept in the desire to belong. The final act is where it gets the most real, some of the most thought-provoking questions are asked. The question of identity is laid bare for everyone to see, picked apart and essentially scrutinized, where it doesn’t matter what the colour of your skin is, you are now forced to take a good hard look at your own actions.
It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you’ve come from, Take d Milk, Nah? is a must-see experience. We don’t know for sure, but it’s the first Indo-Caribbean-Hindu-Canadian identity play that I’ve experienced in Toronto, and I was impressed to see that 90% of the audience was white. What does that really say about the changing conversations of our time? Will we be represented by mainstream society, or continue to be marginalized by it?
Take d Milk Nah? will grace the stage until April 22nd at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, 16 Ryerson Ave. For tickets visit PasseMuraille.ca or call 416-504-7529.