Archiving the Present

The final post in our series about Rhubarb’s 35-year history features Thom digging into what happens after Rhubarb. You can also head over our brand new on-line archive where every Rhubarb show is now listed.

As my work exploring the festival archive has been drawing to a close, I’ve been reflecting upon the ways in which the work that is shown at Rhubarb has gone on to have a life outside of the festival. Two images from recent years have stood out for me—a production still and a candid photograph from an awards ceremony—both of them connected with the work of writer and performer Tawiah M’carthy.

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First, a bit of backstory: in 2009 M’carthy became a member of the Young Creators Unit, or YCU. Annually offering a group of young queer artists the chance to write and perform an original, 25-minute, one-person show, the YCU has become a launching pad for emerging performers. Artists are paired with professional directors and their pieces are featured during The Rhubarb Festival each February. Coordinated since 2007 by theatrical virtuoso Evalyn Parry, the YCU continues to nurture queer talent; the 2014 group consists of exciting new works by Rory Jade Gray, Jackie Rowland, and Ramon Vitug. (Incidentally, this year’s festival celebrates the 10th year of Buddies’ Queer Youth Arts Program, of which the YCU is a branch, with a huge and free Reunion Party on Sunday February 16th at 8PM in the Cabaret. Come one, come all!)

M’carthy’s YCU piece for the 2009 festival eventually grew into Obaaberima, a Buddies Mainstage show during the 2012 season. Directed by Parry, it tells the story of a young Ghanaian man’s journey of self-discovery through storytelling, dance, and live music. In Jeremy Mimnagh’s haunting still from the play, M’carthy is depicted in a simple orange jumpsuit, facing the prison bars at the back of designer Camellia Koo’s eerie set.

I went to see Obaaberima several times during its run, and each time I marveled at M’carthy’s ability to create and perform such an evocative and moving tale. Clearly, I wasn’t alone: Obaaberima won the coveted Best Production Award at the 2013 Dora Awards. A photograph taken that evening of the Obaaberima creative time accepting the award alongside Buddies Artistic Director Brendan Healy perfectly captures the joy and gratitude of the moment.

For me, these two images taken together are a testament to the power of artistic creation; they celebrate artistic collaboration and the dynamic bond between performer and audience. And this is but one current example: the connections that past Rhubarb pieces have forged are far too numerous to list here. At any rate, it is our hope that the digital festival archive that the Rhubarb team has placed here on the website will allow you to start to explore this rich history yourself.

Finally, on a personal note, I’m so grateful to Laura, Brendan, Mark, and everyone here at Buddies for letting me be a part of such an important project. The Rhubarb Festival will continue to provide inspiring and captivating works for years to come—and the archive will be here to document and celebrate them!

Thom Bryce McQuinn

Thom spent many years working at the Buddies Box Office. Now he has a PhD. He’s also super nice. You can follow him on twitter @ThomBryce

Read all posts by Thom Bryce McQuinn

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