Neema Bickersteth

Published on: February 18, 2014

Filled Under: Arts: 9-5

Views: 2296

Nightwood Theatre’s festival of new work is back! This year the New Groundswell Festival features a full line-up of workshop productions, readings, salons AND a panckake breakfast. Part of the workshop series is a remount of b current’s epic OBEAH OPERA; performer Neema Bickersteth opens up about the show’s next iteration below:

1. What is your role in OBEAH OPERA?
I play Sarah, one of the slave women in the town of Salem.

2. The show is getting a workshop production at Nightwood Theatre’s New Groundswell Festival (Sept. 8-14). What changes will there be since the last time it was mounted?
There are even more of us on stage this time – 20 women singing a cappella. The narrative has been made a lot more clear. Some characters that only made appearances in the last showing are now more fully realized. Also, the last time anyone played any character regardless of race.

3. Workshop productions are a great way to get feedback from the audience and/or try something new; as a performer what are you looking for or hope to get from, the New Groundswell Festival performances?
It is a powerful story and the music is quite amazing with many harmonies and rhythms. I’m curious about how well we are connecting the two, music and story, and how that impacts the audience at this point in the process.

4. Although I haven’t seen the show before, I think it sounds beautiful; tell me your favourite moment from the show (if you can pick one!) and why it resonates with you.
There is a song called “The Magic is Gone” with a beautiful three-part chorus sung underneath; first a Puritan girl struggling with faith at her death bed begins, and then a slave woman also struggling in her jail cell joins in. It’s a sad, beautiful, yet unifying moment in the show.

5. Based on my own positive experiences with working an all-female cast, I have romantic and biased visions of an OBEAH OPERA backstage sisterhood that lasts beyond the rehearsal and performance period. Can you tell us what your experience been like?
There is a lot of care and support for each other both on and off stage. We feel a togetherness in negotiating through this epic work, which is amazing as sometimes isolation is the result of something so big.

6. What’s next for OBEAH OPERA? Mainstage at Mirvish or is there a step in between?
Mirvish? wow!… well, you’ll have to talk to the producers about that : ) The show has been commissioned by the Arts and Culture Program of the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, where it will receive its world premiere in July 2015.

OBEAH OPERA is part of the New Groundswell Festival at Nightwood Theatre. It plays until September 14. For tix click here. 

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