In Depth: Empty with Nan Fewchuk

We are pleased to welcome guest blogger Nan Fewchuk who is directing Empty at FemFest 2012. To learn more about how you can get your tickets to Empty and other shows, visit www.femfest.ca.

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Empty, written by Hope McIntyre, is a thought provoking work which takes us inside a Winnipeg foodbank and further, inside the lives of its users. McIntyre penned the play after volunteering at one of the food banks here in Winnipeg, and interviewing several of the regular clientele. Their stories reflect their real life situations. Theirs is a life empty of more than stomachs and cupboards, and hearing their voices helps to bring a better understanding of why these characters are at a place where “everybody knows their names.” The answers may not be what you were expecting.

When Hope first asked me if I was interested in helping her facilitate some drama workshops for food bank clients at the First Unitarian Universal Church, I was thrilled, but I admit I felt a wee bit embarrassed. Although I had been volunteering with Siloam Mission at the time, it occurred to me that I had never stepped foot into a food bank and knew very little about how they operated or who used them. That soon changed for me after spending time not only volunteering, but being invited to sit in on the reading of the play by the clients themselves, each playing the character Hope created for them based on their true life stories. What a treat! Moving, funny, and painfully truthful, I was enlightened. So, when later asked if I would be interested in directing the play as a workshop presentation for the community and Winnipeg Harvest, it was a no brainer.Now a year later, I am honoured to be directing this important work for FemFest and am thrilled that we will be touring schools this fall.

The play tackles tough issues honestly and with humour. It helps educate the audience member who may be holding negative, stereotypical perceptions of who these people are, and sheds light on the different perspectives of the food bank community. Questions are raised not only from the outside, but also amongst the users themselves who confront each other about their own biases.

Sadly, there are 58,000 people using a food bank in Manitoba each month, and 1 in 5 of those are children.  As a society and community of caregivers, it is our responsibility to learn more about the situation, and Empty is up for the challenge. With a stellar cast featuring Winnipeg’s own Sylvia Kuzyk, this journey will leave you feeling far from empty.

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