Pretty Porky Pissed Off and Turtle Gals too

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The new school programs combine arts, equity and labour history.

Mayworks Festival of Working People and the Arts has been presentingToronto audiences with relevant, compelling and engaging community-basedarts for 19 years. Building on this history, Mayworks brings itsspecial blend of labour and arts programming to high school and collegestudents with the launch of its Mayworks in the Schools Program.

Florencia Berinstein, the schools program coordinator, says, “Mayworks Festival istremendously proud to announce the launch of its new program, Mayworks inthe Schools. This innovative program finds its roots in the arts andlabour movements of England and Australia, who for years have beenbringing artists into union workplaces. We developed the Mayworks in theWorkplace program from those initiatives when the Festival began. Withour Mayworks in the Schools program, we are taking that original conceptand presenting the junction of art and labour histories and movements tostudent and college audiences.”

Working in partnership with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union(OPSEU), and Ontario Secondary School Federation (OSSTF), Mayworks bringsPretty Porky and Pissed Off together with first year college studentsenrolled in Labour Studies, Education, and Community Worker program, andTurtle Gals and Afua Cooper with Toronto high school students.

“This year's Festival focuses on health and safety. For youth entering theworkforce, these issues are key. Our Mayworks in the Schools programminglooks at these issues with a broad understanding of what health and safetymeans. It includes questions of race and ethnicity, equity and access. This is what Mayworks is all about: the fusion of art, culture and ourworkplace experience,” says Stephen Seaborn, Special Events Coordinator.

Pretty Porky and Pissed Off

Body size and fat have largely been unrecognized as equity and accessissues. Whether fat people self-identify as disabled or not, rampantdiscrimination, social alienation and the common pathologization of peopleof size results in significant employment and promotion barriers. Becauseof entrenched cultural biases which support discrimination against fatpeople and the “moralizing of thinness,” Mayworks Festival highlightsissues of body size by presenting Pretty, Porky and Pissed Off in the Mayworks in the Schools Program.

Pretty, Porky, and Pissed Off (PPPO) includes artists Lisa Ayuso, GillianBell, Joanne Huffa, Allyson Mitchell, Abi Slone, Mariko Tamaki, TracyTidgwell and Zoe Whittall. PPPO members share the belief that that beingfat can mean being healthy, sexy and socially productive. Throughactivism, discussion, film, art and performance, PPPO shows that beinghappy doesn't have to equal being thin and that being fat doesn't have toequal being miserable. For the past four years, PPPO has danced, shouted,strutted, cheered and educated as they've boldly taken on issues ofequity and fatness, the diet industry, the idea that beauty only comes insmall packages and ignorance in general.

For Mayworks, PPPO has created a multimedia performance, Big Judy, thatfocuses on how fat women negotiate their bodies as they move throughpublic and private spaces. Big Judy speaks to the issues of employmentequity, fat phobia, health care, cafeteria politics and the mysteries ofcontrol top pantyhose. Originally presented at George Brown College aspart of the College's School of Labour Fair at in March, Big Judy will beperformed during the Festival at the Girl Friday Crashes Glass program onFriday, May 7 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

Turtle Gals Performance Ensemble

Turtle Gals Performance Ensemble (pictured on front page) was founded in 1999 with a commitment tobring Native women's stories to the stage. Veteran theatre artists JaniLauzon, Monique Mojica and Michelle St. John won over audiences andcritics with their first original play, The Scrubbing Project, co-producedwith Native Earth Performing Arts and in association with The FactoryTheatre in Toronto. “Several years ago, we gathered to talk about race,colour and sexuality. We told stories and talked about what could liebeyond the popular culture's imagery of Native women, i.e. Disney'sPocahontas. Out of the conversation emerged a recurring theme: scrubbing.Either we, or someone we knew had at some point tried to scrub off orbleach out their colour. This realization, whet our appetite to explorethe manifestations of the internalized racism we carry,” say the TurtleGals.

For the Mayworks in the Schools Program, Turtle Gals will perform theirpiece, Aboriginal People at Work in North America, at three Toronto highschools. This project explores both the role of work in Native People'slives from pre-colonization to present, and the role of Native workers inCanada. “This program puts to school audiences the question of work andrace and ethnicity in a format that is compelling and involving of thestudents. With Turtle Gals, the emphasis is on facing the workforce in asociety that has not completely addressed the barriers to workers ofcolour and, indeed, of youth,” says Seaborn. Turtle Gals will also appear in the Girl FridayCrashes Class program on May 7 at the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

Afua Cooper

Afua Cooper, in collaboration with percussionist Nation, anddancer/choreographer Afua Marcus, performed Servile Labour, a new workthat focused on the role of African Canadians in Canada's workforce, forover 400 students at Sir Oliver Mowat High Collegiate Institute inSeptember 2003, and at Central Technical High School in October 2003.Afua Cooper, one of Canada's most versatile poets of Afro-Caribbeanorigin, incorporates African rhythms and the musical vibes of the Blackdiaspora in her poetry. She has published four books of poems includingMemories Have Tongue, one of the finalists in the 1992 Casa de lasAmericas literary award. Her scholarly endeavors have made a vastcontribution to gender studies in African North American history.

Mayworks Festival

Mayworks Festival of Working People and the Arts is an annual,multidisciplinary festival of theatre, music, film and video,interdisciplinary and performance art, spoken word and visual art inToronto. Founded in 1986 by the Labour Arts and Media Committee of theToronto and York Region Labour Council, Mayworks has become the largestmulti-disciplinary labour arts festival in North America.

Mayworks delivers over 25 arts and cultural events from the end of Aprilthrough the beginning of May in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area.Venues range from union halls and community centres to theatres andgalleries. This year's Festival kicksoff on May 1 — International Labour Day — and runs until May 9.

Other festivals across the country are in Saskatoon, Vancouver, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Edmonton.

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