Whether dystopian audio dramas or animated serials are your jam, the Prairie Theatre Exchange (PTE) has you covered.
After postponing in-person performances, PTE announced the March release of two digital projects. Places We Go, an episodic series, streams from March 1 to 31 and is followed by A Dance to the End of the World, an audio drama available from March 14 to Apr. 10. Both are free of charge and can be enjoyed anywhere with an internet connection.
Hazel Venzon and her husband, illustrator David Oro were approached by PTE’s artistic director, Thomas Morgan Jones, to commission a digital show.
“The criteria was that it should be beautiful, hopeful and digital and be offered as an episodic,” Venzon says. “I brought it to David, and he was the first one to say ‘we should do Places We Go.’”
Several years ago, when Venzon lived in Yukon, she was asked to tell a Filipino folk tale at a children’s literacy event. After having difficulty translating folk stories from Tagalog into English without sacrificing the cultural nuances, Venzon decided to take a different route.
She made one up.
Inspired by her cousin’s story of being separated from her family in the Philippines for six years, Venzon created Places We Go, which is told from the perspective of a young Filipina girl whose nanay (mother) works in Winnipeg.
“This girl is eight years old. She wakes up and chooses to buy her mother a birthday present, which is a plane ticket back to Manila,” she says. “The challenges that she finds are essentially the issues around poverty in the Philippines.”
“She learns the lesson, for the first time, that money can’t buy you love.”
The oral story of Places We Go toured through different mediums, languages and cities. Its latest installment at PTE features illustrations by Oro, Venzon’s voice acting and sound design by RP Singh.
The vision behind Jones’ project A Dance to the End of the World started a decade ago after Jones read a book about the bubonic plague. Ripe with metaphor, the audio drama critiques power relations through the tale of a pre-modern plague.
“It acts as a really interesting metaphor for government, capitalism or larger structures that inform who has power (and) how they exert power,” Jones says.
The project will be released as an audio play with accompanying digital illustrations. Shifting to the virtual realm allowed PTE to explore new ways to tell stories while expanding audience accessibility, Jones says.
“My main focus over the last number of years was to continue to tell stories and continue to reach people with stories,” Jones says.
“We say things like ‘digital production,’ but there are so many different ways that you can do that. For every way there is to do it, there’s an audience who prefers that or is only able to exclusively interact with that.”
To stream Places We Go and Dance to the End of the World free of charge, visit pte.mb.ca.
Published in Volume 76, Number 20 of The Uniter (March 10, 2022)