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We all know this strike has been drama-filled at times, but a talented group of CUPE members decided that if there’s going to be drama, then they should put on a show.

Members from Locals 391 and 15, with the assistance of Diana Jeffries of Flexible theatre, mounted a cantastoria performance. A cantastoria (Italian for “sung story” or “singing history”) is an ancient theatrical form where an actor tells or sings a story while gesturing to a series of images such as pictures, signs or any other material. It’s an art that’s been popular for conveying messages about political or social conditions.

Last week, the CUPE players gathered to rehearse their show. Participants were a mix of CUPE 15 and 391 members —Teresa Staton, Bob Adair, Jon Young, Samy Harayan, Sukhdev S Basra, Robert Lee, and Randi Gurholt-Seary from 15; and Nenad Jelicie, Marcus Mendes, Christina Gerber from 391 — who were joined by retired member Neil Bailey. After several run-throughs, the opening performance was held at Napier Green off Commercial Drive.

Photo gallery of first Cantastoria delivered during this strike.

The CUPE Cantastoria told a story of workers who build and make strong communities and security for everyone. But then the Big Foot steps over the workers and tries to crush them. The performers remind everyone not to let the Big Foot crush them and take away everything they have built. The cry at the end, with arms raised, is to “support civic workers now.” Overall, the show generated strong interest from the public and many people stayed after the show ended to share their thoughts and talk to our members.

On September 15, the show went on tour to the Vancouver Art Gallery and Vancouver Public Library (VPL). They entertained the downtown crowds, and let them know more about who we are and why we’re on strike. Whenever the lights turned green at the nearby intersections, flooding the Robson Street sidewalk with pedestrians, the actors launched into the show. They performed about seven shows and handed out leaflets and talked to citizens. Many passing tourists took pictures of the merry troupe too. The show then moved over to VPL’s Central branch, where picketers and the public alike were a rapt audience. By popular demand, the troupe also did a performance in front of the CBC building, which prompted the network to send out a camera crew to document the show outside Central later.

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