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Theatre festival in Nanaimo takes on tough topics

Western Edge’s New Waves Festival to feature staged readings, a workshop and discussion panel
The works of Bonnie Catterson-Kent, left, and Mary Littlejohn will be a part of Western Edge Theatre’s New Waves Festival this year as staged reading from Feb. 7-8 at the OV Arts Centre. (Submitted photos)

Western Edge Theatre’s New Waves Festival this year will discuss disability in the arts and the various complex topics it encompasses.

“We’re not going to walk away with any big answers,” said the producer of this year’s festival, Sean Enns. “But we can give people confidence and normalize conversations around disability.”

Enns, who came to theatre as a means of coping with mental health challenges and a late diagnosis of ADHD, said the festival doesn’t just focus on the perspective of living with a disability, but around creating space for artists who have various lived experiences with disability.

“COVID has revealed that there’s more people who experience disability than we think,” he said. “What we’re finding out, for many people, that these things always existed and they were just ‘hanging on.’ We experienced this global event where vulnerable people are more compromised and isolated… it just makes people aware of their own limitations in terms of mental health.”

There will be many opportunities for discussion during the 10-day event.

This month, New Waves will feature two staged readings; Waiting, written by Bonnie Catterson-Kent, and Poetry in Motion, by Mary Littlejohn.

Catterson-Kent’s Waiting follows a pair of best friend servers with “raging hangovers” who are confronted by the “table from hell.” Described as a dramedy set in an overpriced restaurant in Vancouver, the story tackles loneliness, grief, isolation and family.

Littlejohn’s Poetry in Motion centres on what happens when controversial figures from famous works of poetry meet for an unknown purpose. Questions about censorship arise, as does the “endurance of classic art in modern context and the legacy of problematic creators.”

Two readings of Waiting and Poetry in Motion will be performed Feb. 7-8, both at 6:30 p.m., at the OV Arts Centre on Victoria Road.

Before taking to the stage, the festival will also include a workshop, titled, ‘Cultivating Safe Spaces,’ that will explore what it means to promote safe working and creative spaces in theatre, on Sunday, Feb. 5, from noon until 4 p.m. at the Harbourfront Library. Also at the library will be a separate discussion panel, moderated by Enns, that tackles difficult conversations on disability and mental health on Monday, Feb. 6, from 5-7 p.m. An evening of art, food and drink will wrap up the festival on Feb. 12 from 6-10 p.m. at Black Rabbit Kitchen.

Further information on this year’s New Waves Festival can be found online at

READ MORE: Western Edge Theatre’s latest production aims to challenge audience’s superstitions

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Mandy Moraes

About the Author: Mandy Moraes

I joined Black Press Media in 2020 as a multimedia reporter for the Parksville Qualicum Beach News, and transferred to the News Bulletin in 2022
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