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Theatre Review: The Tale of a Town – Canada Focuses in on Canadian Identity and Community

The Tale of a Town – Canada premiered on the national stage at the Fredericton Playhouse Oct. 5, presented and created by FIXT POINT theatre and media company. Based in Toronto, the company is run by husband and wife duo Charles Ketchabaw and Lisa Marie DiLiberto, who serve as managing and artistic directors.

The pair are on a nation-wide tour accompanied by local musicians from each region. A Fredericton choir and musicians Michael\\ Doherty and Garry Hanson provided the music for the New Brunswick installment. The project started in 2014 when Ketchabaw and DiLiberto began touring downtowns around the country in search of stories that truly mattered to local people in each region.

After three years of work, the team has gathered their information, giving the “average person” a voice and platform to present their stories. For those who approached their “storymobile”—a jeep with a recording studio hitched on the back—in downtowns across the nation, Lisa would ask the simple question “What do you not want to be forgotten?” This always delivered genuine and interesting responses from those ready to share their stories.

The show began with a moment of self-proclaimed—by DiLiberto herself, the show’s main performer—“breaking of the fourth wall,” following an audio clip of individuals speaking from coast to coast. DiLiberto asked audience members where they were born, what their first memory of their respective downtowns was and why they valued these places. Beginning the show in this way highlighted its themes: the value of personal stories, memories and community.

The performance presented these local stories by relying on a multimedia approach to theatre. Audio clips and video were done by Ketchabaw, “the techie,” while DiLiberto handled the prop work and stage acting. After a brief introduction of themselves and their purpose for creating the show, DiLiberto and Ketchabaw brought the audience on a tour of the country with a unique form of documentary theatre.

This trip began in Nova Scotia, hitting every province and territory all the way to the vast reaches of Nunavut.

Presented in chronological order, the stories gave the audience a chance to reflect on Canadian identity and values. DiLiberto’s skill as a story-teller, combined with musical interludes from local artists, contributed to the audience’s appreciation of each tale.

The couple recounted visiting Caraquet, New Brunswick, the “unofficial capital of the Acadians,” where they were delighted by what they encountered. Rolling through the town was a parade of locals completely covered in their nation’s colors, accompanied by their signature flag. Celebrating their heritage and cultural pride, it made for quite the spectacle as the town spread as much noise and joy as possible.

While touring Alberta, the pair encountered a town mayor with quite a reputation. Known for his straw-covered jacket and cowboy boots, he was also the owner of the town’s largest mall. Taking his time to walk around his establishment, he would hand out $5 bills to each child he saw and claimed to have spent thousands of dollars on the local children at a later age. On top of that, he would hand out roses to the women who frequented his business—and bizarrely, cucumbers to the men in the store.

In the Maritimes, DiLiberto found a group of local people who had all at one time worked at the same general store. Describing the establishment’s variety—it contained aspects of a department store, restaurant and gas station—it was thought by the town that if it could not be bought there, it was not worth having at all.

The show did not only celebrate Canada’s heritage, though; it also touched on the negative aspects of downtown life in different regions. From Indigenous issues to homelessness on the streets of Prince George, every effort was made to present a realistic image of life in our nation.

The show ended with a moment of reflection and emphasized the importance of sharing our communities’ stories and histories. “To have everybody in the room experiencing it live together, there’s that same kind of feeling that we’re talking about,” DiLiberto stated. “That feeling of community and being part of something…That’s sort of the ethosor the underlying themeof the show.”

Whether the piece truly captured the full scope of experiences on main streets across Canada, it was certain that the FIXT POINT pair take their audience on an adventure that lets viewers question or reassure their own national identity and create a more inclusive sense of community in their own towns.

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