SIX STAGES FESTIVAL featuring seven international companies. Begins Tuesday (January 28) and runs to February 9 at Artword (75 Portland) and Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson). $11-$21, some rush seats $6. 416-504-7529; fest hotline 416-593-8680.
william yang wants you to for get all those boring slide shows of someone's vacation or wedding.
The Chinese-Australian photographer and performance artist has taken the humble project-images-and-talk format to a new and very theatrical level.
"I've written books and I've done photographic exhibits, but the most satisfying medium remains the monologue with slide projections," he says on the phone from Calgary, where his latest piece, Shadows, is making noise at the annual High Performance Rodeo.
"It's such a rich medium. People spend maybe 10 minutes looking at an exhibition, but here I've got a captive crowd for 90 minutes, about the length of a film."
Yang's best known for his autobiographical pieces that explore identity and his Australian-Chinese family. Shadows marks a departure in that it explores other people's lives -- namely, Aboriginal Australians in New South Wales and mistreated migrant Germans in South Australia during the two world wars.
"The central theme is reconciliation," explains Yang, who shares the stage with composer and live musician Colin Offord. "Until recently, these two groups of people haven't been talked about. And now there's a reconciliation movement in Australia. It seems like a positive thing, but as I researched things, I realized it was much darker."
Both groups were treated badly by Brit colonialism, says Yang. Germans were demonized and called baby-eaters, their language banned and town names anglicized, while Aboriginals were slaughtered, their half-caste children separated from their parents.
Yang sees a link between the suppression of his own cultural history (as a child he wasn't even aware he was Chinese) and the silenced stories of his subjects.
He manages to be a character in the piece as well, recounting a trip to Berlin and talking about that city's efforts at reconciliation, and he shows his pictures of a friend's adopted Aboriginal son and his community.
"I prefer telling my own stories," admits Yang. "Obviously, I'm closer to them. But Shadows has let me take on larger themes, bigger issues. My own stories are pretty domestic. Nothing too dramatic happens to me."
shadows written and performed by William Yang. Presented by Performing Lines at Artword Theatre (75 Portland). February 6-8 at 8:30 pm, matinee February 9 at 4 pm.