This tenth anniversary blog series will feature ten singers who have been an integral part of the ensemble. Each month, from September to June, you can look forward to "meeting" someone new!
OCTOBER'S FEATURED SINGER
One of Xara's early members, Robin performed with the ensemble for five years. Besides her growth as a singer and performer, Robin is legendary for her wonderful snacks and is remembered as costume keeper and creative sewer. Her energy and passion for Xara was evident to everyone - and still is! For the past two years she has served as an integral part of Xara's board as our treasurer... continuing in a very hands on role! In this interview, Robin looks back on her Fatty Legs experience and how it helped shape her experience with XARA.
How long were or have you been a member of XARA?
I joined Xara in its third season, and sang for about 5 years before transitioning to my current role serving on the Board of Directors as Treasurer.
You performed in the very first iteration of Fatty Legs in 2011.
Yes, I was one of the original members to perform Fatty Legs when it was conceived as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Halifax event. I also performed in the 2015 remount, which was actually the last Xara show I sang in before I "retired" as a singer.
Tell me a little bit about that experience and the show itself.
I came into the show knowing absolutely nothing about Residential Schools or their legacy of cultural genocide. My first thought on hearing of the show was "that's a weird name for a concert". After having some workshops with the choir and getting the opportunity to meet Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and her daughter Christy Jordan-Fenton, the authors of "Fatty Legs" and Sarain Carson-Fox, our principal dancer, and hearing about their real life experiences, I was completely floored. I have a hard time describing the heartbreak I felt hearing about the abuse so many children suffered at the hands of my ancestors. It completely changed my outlook and understanding of indigenous life and history in Canada.
During the 2011 show, Xara was still pioneering the Choral Theatre concept, and our role as singers was mostly limited to background landscape. We spent the majority of the show standing in a semicircle around Sarain as she danced the story in front of us, and Margaret and Christy read excerpts from the book as narration. Since then, we remounted the show in 2015 for Podium, and expanded it by adding two pieces of music and additional choreography for the choir. We also hired a Mi'kmaq actor to read the Narrator (Young Margaret). The current show that is touring Ontario is largely the same as the 2015 show, with some tweaking and change in personnel.
Tell me what you feel best describes XARA, and what they accomplish together singing and performing?
To me, Xara is about building a community of understanding and support, and telling some incredible stories while we do it. I think especially with Fatty Legs, it's about educating the youth in Canada so that we can hope to build a society that learns from our past and takes steps to build a better future for everyone.
How has XARA shaped your life?
The Xara community has helped me through some major changes in my life. I joined when I was in my mid-20's, and Xara helped me deal with depression, un/underemployment, and a major break-up. It has been so wonderful to be a part of this network of incredible women supporting each other. As a new mother, I hope someday my daughter will find a community like it.