We produced The Rainforest Circus for 7 years in the forests of the Sunshine Coast. Sold out audiences, so many generous participants and a whole lot of beauty and magic pushed us to create year after a year a unique production intertwined with dancers, aerialists, installations, clowning and social commentary. As the organization grew and changed we felt a shift was needed to bring this project more to the centre of our organization and it’s values of community engagement. This is when Submerged was conceived. We decided to take time off of productions to re-envision what The Rainforest Circus could be and how we could include and honour the people and stories of the lands where the shows would be held.
Over four summers, a group of professional artists visited five different ocean-bound communities to collaborate on the development and production of a “circus in the forest,” inspired by the theme of water. In the first two years youth, elders and other participants from the Sunshine Coast, Malcolm Island, Gabriola Island, and Esquimalt worked with this core artist team to devise vignettes and installations.
In 2018, we collaborated with community members of the Sunshine Coast and Malcolm Island to create and produce our first community-engaged circus: Submerged. In 2021 we produced a unique version of Rainforest Circus: Submerged in qathet and Tla’amin territory.
Dates: 2016-2021Partners: Inclusion Powell River
The involvement of local indigenous communities was integral to the development and production of Submerged. In each community we visited we had meaningful dialogue and engagement with local first nations to better understand the land and to hear their perspectives on the theme Submerged. We are grateful for their blessings to put on a theatrical production on their traditional territories, in the forests of their ancestors.
The story line follows a couple processing the immense grief of losing their daughter. The story takes place three years after when the couple decide to join a suspect spiritual retreat, hopeful to find peace and healing. During the retreat, their guide goes through his own journey of transformation alongside the couple, with the help of the spirit of their daughter, Verity, and the forest creatures alongside her.
The show offered us all (audience and collaborator alike) the opportunity to reflect on the collective processing and healing that is happening around the world and provided an example for how the arts can be involved in the ongoing work of decolonization and reconciliation.