Reservations review

Yesterday evening, all of the first-year Creative Communications students went to see Reservations, written by Steven Ratzlaff. It’s a two-part play presented by Theatre Projects Manitoba that focuses on Indigenous themes, primarily reconciliation.

The first thing that stands out is the minimalist set. There is one backdrop and three 6 x 20 foot screens that projectors cast landscape imagery onto throughout the play. The props consist of a round wooden table and four wooden chairs. Although the set is minimal, the script and the acting is not.

The first part of the play is about a generous Albertan farmer, named Pete, who wants to give his land to the Siksika Nation. His privileged daughter, Anna, objects to this because she wants to inherit the land after her father’s death. Through their discussion, the characters share information about treaties and colonialism, revealing their ignorance and enlightenment. But there is no real resolution. We don’t know if Pete gives his land away, which feels unsatisfying.

The second part of the play is about a couple, Jenny and Mike, who foster three Indigenous children. Jenny doesn’t like the kids visiting the reserve and is afraid they’ll be taken away by CFS. The couple visit with an Indigenous social worker, Denise, who explains why visits to the reserve are necessary for the children. The acting is so good that I catch myself feeling anxious when Jenny is really worked up. We learn that the kids are taken away and Jenny is crushed.

The play ends with a lecture presented by Denise. She talks about German philosopher Martin Heidegger. I’m not familiar with his philosophy and it’s hot in the theatre, so I lose interest and wonder when it will be over so I can get some fresh air. But there is a question and answer session with the writer that follows the lecture. It seems like Ratzlaff is tired and hard of hearing. He doesn’t offer a lot of insight. Again, I lose interest.

Overall, I appreciated how the characters showed different perspectives and beliefs about Indigenous culture. It felt very real. But I would have liked to see some resolution instead of lots of back and forth fighting.

You can see Reservations at The Rachel Browne Theatre until March 20.

the art of relaxation

I deal with a pretty big amount of stress and anxiety. Right now, on top of all my school responsibilities, I’m in the midst of trying to find a new place to live by the first of May. I’ve already moved twice since CreComm started last September, and I’m so incredibly exhausted of the whole process. I’m also trying to look for a summer job so I can pay off my line of credit and get some work experience.

With all of these things going on, along with being an introvert, it can be really hard for me to relax and recharge. But I still try. Here are some activities I do to calm myself.

Do a guided meditation – At night, when I’m laying in bed and my head is spinning with all of the things I need to do, I will put on a guided meditation by Michael Sealey. He has an extremely soothing voice. Some of his videos include: releasing negativity, meeting your higher self, and many many more. Check out his channel.

Take a bath – There’s nothing that a warm bath won’t help, even just a little bit. I love turning off the lights and lounging in the tub with a few drops of lavender oil. I guess it sort of resembles being in the womb and not having any worries or responsibilities? Ha.

Stretch out – Sitting at school all day and carrying around a backpack really strains the muscles in my body and can cause some pretty nasty knots. It feels great to stretch and regain some flexibility and circulation in problem areas. I usually watch a video on YouTube so I can follow along and not get distracted.

Make fresh ginger tea – Brewing up some ginger tea and adding honey is one of my favorite acts of self-care. There are so many benefits of fresh ginger tea: it stimulates appetite, relieves tired muscles, and helps to soothe a sore stomach. Ginger root is available at most grocery stores, and the tea itself is very easy to make.

What do you like to do to chill out? Comment and let me know!

Alana Mercer personality profile

10.15 Chica Boom Boom
Chica Boom Boom opening up for Andrew W.K. at The Pyramid Cabaret.  October 15, 2015

Smoke creeps across the stage and into the energetic crowd as Joanne Rodriguez and Alana Mercer begin their set at The Pyramid Cabaret. Mercer sits behind her 4-piece silver drum kit sporting a sleeveless Taylor Swift shirt. Her stark red hair pokes out from underneath a black and white trucker hat.

The two-piece band Chica Boom Boom is opening up for American singer-songwriter and hard-core partier Andrew W.K.

“I think I’ve had a crush on that man for 17 years. When he played here last, he said hello to me in the middle of a song and tried to get me to sing a long. I was just like ‘EEEEEEE, oh my god’,” Mercer laughs.

Rodriguez and Mercer have known each other for ten years. They played in a doo-wop band called The Angry Dragons and an Alice Cooper cover band, Muscle Love. In 2013 the pair formed Chica Boom Boom: a gritty in-your-face rock and roll band. Since then, they have recorded two music videos with local filmmaker Gwen Trutnau and are working with Exchange District Studios to release an album.

“For our first video, we took one of the back seats out of Joanne’s van and shot inside of it. Gwen styled it so fucking wicked. There was a Hello Kitty hookah pipe with an inverted cross on it. It was beautiful,” says Mercer.

But the creative process is slow going because of their busy schedules. While Mercer, 32, manages the pizza side of Nicolino’s Italian Restaurant full time, Rodriguez, 40, runs Rogue Tattoo, her own body modification shop on Corydon Ave. Mercer has burn scars all along her arms that reflect the hard work she does.

When they do get the time to practice, they try being as creative as possible. “We’re not jammers who spend four hours on a riff. We play a piece and we sit on it like an egg,” says Mercer.

“We only write hits. We don’t write anything shitty,” Rodriguez says with a smile.

Mercer lights up a joint and takes a swig from a bottle of Ballantine’s. “I used to depend on smoking pot or getting drunk to write stuff when I was really young, but then I realized that’s kind of bullshit. If I can’t do it when I’m sober then I can’t do it at all,” says Mercer. “I want to know I’m working hard and it’s not just drunken chance that I wrote a good riff.”

When Mercer was 20 years old, she left Vancouver with her savings and the plan of going across Canada city to city and stopping where she liked it best. When she got to Winnipeg, she fell in love with the people and music scene.

“In Winnipeg there is this whole range of people that play music together, who are super supportive. Trying to get into the scene in Vancouver was impossible, you felt so intimidated,” says Mercer.

It’s through the music community that Mercer met her boyfriend of seven years, Karl Warkentin. The couple, along with several other members of the Winnipeg metal community, recorded the soundtrack to the short film “Polar Express.”

“She’s helped me appreciate music from a different perspective. Listening to it without bias. Good music is good music, and fuck off otherwise,” says Warkentin.

Mercer draws inspiration from Dolly Parton to Venom, and local bands such as Solanum, Archagathus, and Sphagnum.

“I don’t think I could ever move away from this city, I love how fucked up everyone is here. No one is normal. It’s the best.”