Like the National Arts Centre, the National Theatre School of Canada (NTS) is a unique multi-pronged endeavour. Its mission gathers the best and brightest from across the country through a highly competitive audition process and selects a very small cohort each year to study playwriting, acting, direction, design or production in either English or French. The student to teacher ratio is small, and direct access to current practitioners is one of the biggest assets of the school. Jeff Ho is a graduate of that program, and he worked on the development of trace at NTS with Yael Farber, a titan of a theatre creator who is known around the world for her incredible insight and mastery.
The solo theatre project at NTS asks students to write what they know. Mani Soleymanlou’s international smash Un came out of a similar initiative on the French side of NTS, and Ted Dykstra made an early iteration while there of what became Two Pianos Four Hands before creating the famous version with Richard Greenblatt. Many Ottawa theatregoers will remember the powerful Brotherhood by Sebastian Heins that played at Undercurrents, or Anita Majumdar’s Fish Eyes that played at GCTC, two further examples of far-reaching projects borne of this same educational self-exploratory initiative. In trace, Jeff also writes what he knows. This story, told through the windows of Jeff’s female lineage (and assigning all the roles of adult men to the piano), offers us a unique way to connect with this artist.
When he started the solo show project in his second year at NTS, Yael asked him, “What do your ancestors demand you speak?” Lucky for us, Jeff took this question as a provocation and put words into the mouths of his ancestors directly, reinterpreting their hopes and intentions in each brutal, life‑altering decision they enacted to make his own life better.
Thank you for taking this opportunity to spend a few hours with the women in Jeff’s family, and for welcoming this truthful, beautiful work into your world.
trace is a composition of love – a tapestry of memories and myths. Particularly, it is a celebration of the women in my family, the core pillars that have persisted and survived against all odds.
My Great Grandma is this legendary figure in our family – a single mother who fled from China to Hong Kong during the Japanese Invasion of WWII. Without her iron will to survive, our entire bloodline would not be here today.
In stories recounted by Ma, my Aunts and Uncles, Great Grandma stands as this lioness, ferocious when the family was threatened, yet equally tender and caring. She also held a deep secret, only known to us through whispers, one that drove my initial impulse to write this piece.
Similarly, my Ma too is a lioness. She was a single mother who brought my brother and me from Hong Kong to Canada, single-handedly transplanting our familial roots in the pursuit of “the better life.” A trace of my Great Grandma is evidently found in my Ma.
With everything they’ve passed on to me, with every capacity for expression I was raised with, I trace their parallels, their battles, their dreams, their nightmares and their sacrifices, through this play.
Thank you for joining us, and I encourage you to reflect on the traces of your own ancestral past, with me, here.
A Factory Theatre (Toronto, ON) production
trace was first produced by Factory Theatre in association with b current performing arts in Toronto, Canada, November 2017.
trace is presented by arrangement with Ian Arnold, Catalyst TCM Inc.
Thank you from Factory
Sherry Bie, Sehar Bhojani, Jodi Essery, Yael Farber, Darrel Gamotin, Darcy Gerhart, Catherine Hernandez, Jani Lauzon, Adam Lazarus, Richard Lee, Eponine Lee, Anita Majumdar, Michael Man, Jajube Mandiela, Brian Quirt, Jenna Rodgers, Miquelon Rodriguez, Lisa Truong, Iris Turcott, Bob White, Nigel Shawn Williams, Alison Wong and David Yee.
Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, The Wuchien Michael Than Foundation, BMO, the Government of Canada, TD Bank, b current theatre, the Banff Centre Playwrights Lab 2015, the Stratford Playwrights Retreat 2016, fu-GEN, and Summerworks.
Artistic Director | Nina Lee Aquino
Managing Director | Jonathan Heppner
Philanthropy & Partnerships Manager | Mark Aikman
Interim Production Manager | Alanna McConnell
Company Dramaturg | Matt McGeachy
Marketing & Audience Development Manager | Lauren Naus
Patron Services Manager | Himanshu Sitlani
Board of Directors
Len Racioppo (Chair), Greg Power (Vice Chair), Noha Yahia Abji (Treasurer), Jonathan Odumeru (Secretary), Stewart Adams, Charmain Emerson, Grazyna Krupa, Brian Rintoul, Ebony Rose, Susan Sutton