The Process

Janis Mayers is a member of the 2021 Emerging Creators Unit. She’ll be sharing an excerpt from and insights into her piece, Park Life on June 19+ 20 as part of our Queer Pride Festival

Up until recently, my overall experience in the arts has been with collective creation, large ensembles and collective research, writing and study. Through my work with the ECU, I’m branching out with an independent production titled Park Life. What interests me the most as an artist is the shared human experience and stories from people who are often overlooked or completely ignored. Some of the themes I’m working with in my writing have been addiction, classism, gentrification and social economic health. Athletics and the arts have always been my saving grace, it has kept me grounded and focused over the past three years. With a background in health and fitness the most exciting part about the practice is training for a show, taking any type of class that will best serve me on stage, for example: tai-chi, ballet, yoga and weightlifting, a lot of reading and writing. 

The Emerging Creators Unit has been a refreshing immersive experience that I am honoured to be a part of. We began by acknowledging this land we work and live on as well as the spaces that we are talking about in our projects. For example, what waterways, plants/flowers and pieces of music capture the essence of my piece? I’d never looked at Park Life that way before nor had I asked myself such questions. The findings have helped contextualise the story in a much deeper way and it is a teaching that I am keeping with me. The curriculum is partly geared towards professional development and has brought my project up on its feet. A major focus is on decolonising our spaces and practices, learning how to advocate for what we need and knowing the importance of our relationship with community. With the presentation date fast approaching things have become clear and the script is something I’m very proud of. 

Over the past year I’ve been journaling memories from growing up in Regent Park: the stories in every unit, the ice rink, the basketball court, the difference between north and south side. Looking at the energy of the area, the physical remembrance, cataloguing the history. Remembering friends lost to gun violence and cases that remain cold. The stories of gentrification that we know and the story the writer/character is telling, knowing the trauma, the hidden pain and invisible culture inside. Raw conversations of mental illness, addiction, the underground economy and gang culture. 

 Ultimately what I want to achieve with this project is a realistic, relatable piece of work where people in the audience may feel seen, acknowledged, and understood. I’m hoping that it inspires others to pursue curiosities and live healthy lives. There are a myriad of voices, cultures and stories in the microcosm that is “the hood”. Growing up in a mixed-race household where I was white passing and my sisters and mom were visibly Caribbean, I have been influenced by several cultures while at the same time living in modern day western culture. I’d like to try and create beyond the restrictions of cultural labels as all is not what we see. To know where you come from and know where you stand is important. Structural erasure and social amnesia is not something anyone wants.

Through this process, I have learned to look at my project in a new light and have found the courage to tell the story in my own way. 

Photo Credit: Janis Mayers (Photography John Paillé, MUA Mikey Elliot, Hair Styling Israel Garcia)

Janis Mayers

Janis Mayers is an Emerging Creators Unit participant for our 2020-21 season. She is a Toronto-born theatre artist with a background in media production and athletics. She completed an artistic residency at the Banff Centre and most recently a seasonal residency at Aluna theatre.

Read all posts by Janis Mayers