Bold Exploration: Pig Girl

HHG Theatre continues to operate out of both Vancouver and Ottawa, developing and creating work in both cities which reflects our mission to use theatre in order “to reveal the vulnerable heart and champion the brave idea.” HHG Theatre co-founder and associate artist Mindy Parfitt sends in this latest blog post about her ongoing work in Vancouver on one of the most controversial new Canadian plays in years: Colleen Murphy’s PIG GIRL.

When I was a small child there was a family that lived down the street and around the corner. We were a family of four kids as were they. Sarah, my counterpart and I would play in the forests and parks that surrounded our houses. We ate red licorice and popcorn twists. During grades 8 and 9 Sarah and I started to go downtown. Sarah ended up living on the streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. She became a drug addict and a street-based sex worker. Her life came to an end on Robert Pickton’s farm. So when Colleen Murphy gave me her play PIG GIRL to read I was struck deeply by its exploration of violence against woman using Pickton and his farm as a framework.

I saw the premiere of the play in Edmonton and since that time have been in discussions with Rachel Ditor at the Arts Club about a possible life for this play in Vancouver. We chatted about what might need to happen in conjunction with a production, who would need to be involved and what does the play add to the discussion about the missing and murdered woman from our city.

PIG GIRL is a very violent portrayal of the events which took place on that farm. As I was watching the premiere I wondered what it would be like to remove some of the brutality. I had concerns. I didn’t want to silence the woman more. HHG Theatre along with the Arts Club received some funding from BCAC to hold a staging & design workshop and a reading of the play to an invited audience. For several reasons we decided to separate those two events. From October 16-18 I held a staging & design workshop at the Shadbolt Centre (many thanks to them for supporting this project) with four wonderful actors: Kerry Sandomirsky, Quelemia Sparrow, Frank Zotter and Kevin MacDonald. The workshop also engaged frequent HHG Theatre collaborator and associate artist John Webber as our set & lighting designer.

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The purpose of these 3 days was to see if my idea for re-staging the play was viable and to spend some concentrated time talking about if and how this piece could be done in Vancouver. It was a rewarding and fruitful experience. We talked a lot about violence on stage, about our society’s perception of poverty, sex work and our relationships with indigenous communities.

The second stage of the process will be a reading and discussion with theatre makers and community organizers. This event is being planned with the Arts Club. More information will follow.

One of the ideas that surfaced was that of waking up. The process of coming out of one state and into a new one is an engaging adventure. But it also entails letting go of a past identity, of things we love and hold dear. The murdered and missing women are part of our city’s story. In order to change, we must understand our collective responsibility for creating an environment that allowed for this horrible event. We must understand what it is we are attached to that enabled and continues to enable atrocities that happen.

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