NGO Network

“Global and human concerns are addressed in a thought provoking manner. Tension between the audience and performance is grippingly tangible.”

  • Bea Quarrie, Peterborough Examiner.

Once upon a time, before neo-liberalism took hold, there was a network of Learner’s Centres across the country - Non-Government Organizations dedicated to providing progressive education on international development. In Ontario, these centres went by a variety of names from The Development Education Centre in Toronto [where Don Bouzek worked for a number of years as a radio producer] to the Kawartha World Issues Centre run by Linda Slavin in Peterborough, Ontario. During the 90s, federal cutbacks to CIDA’s Public Participation program effectively de-funded the work. However, while they were in operation they formed the backbone of a touring circuit for a number of shows Ground Zero produced on culturally diverse issues.

Cup of Coffee – Regular [1992-1994]

In the early 90s, Don conceived the idea of a trilogy of shows based on following the ingredients of a coffee with milk and sugar from the farm to the table. This evolved into a series of collaborations with culturally diverse artists.

Hijos del Maiz / People of the Corn [1992-94]

Carlos Barahona, Gwen Baillie, Jorge Barahona.

Hijos del Maiz unfolds in flashbacks from a Refugee claimant hearing to the story of two brothers who flee the horrors of El Salvador during the 1980s.

In the late 80s, Jorge Barahona came to work with Ground Zero. Trained as a mime and educator in El Salvador, Jorge entered Canada as a refugee. He apprenticed with Ground Zero through an Unemployment Insurance program while he improved his English language skills, participating in The Fessenden Animation and In the Neighbourhood of my Heart. He then became a regular collaborator in the company’s work. Hijos del Maiz evolved as a creative re-telling of his story, which also drew in his brothers: Carlos as a performer and Alfredo as composer.

Hijos had a number of incarnations over a period of years. Initially it toured the Leaner Centres’ network creating a bridge of communication over what was happening in El Salvador during post show discussions. This was a time when getting accurate information out of that country was very difficult. One night in Windsor a person would stand up and report what they’d seen on a recent visit. The next night in London, Jorge would share that story and someone else would add to it from their latest trip. It built links in the Salvadorean community who were often isolated in the cities where they’d been settled by Canadian Immigration.

There were two different provincial tours and then a version of the show for secondary schools.

Script: Jorge Barahona & The Company
Direction/Sound/Lights: Don Bouzek
Music: Alfredo Barahona
Performing Artists: Gwen Baillie, Carlos Barahona, Jorge Barahona
Stage Manager: Jennifer Schamehorn Asst. S.M.: Selena Landon

Allos [1994]

Puppets designed by Jerrard Smith.

Writer’s statement
Allos is the nickname of Carlos Bulosan whose semi-autobiography, America is in the Heart, inspired this play. Bulosan was among thousands of Filipino migrants escaping the poverty in the Philippines in the 1930s in order to find the promise of a new life on the US west coast. He trained himself to write in a foreign language. Very few of us knew of Carlos Bulosan. When I first read America in in The Heart, I realized why it wasn’t on my high school reading list. It is about the brutalization of Filipino migrants and their struggles to live in a racist depression-era society. There are forces today that would prefer we have no memory of it so that we are continually caught unprepared and confused whenever history repeats itself.
–Voltaire De Leon

Script: Voltaire De Leon
Direction/Sound/Lights: Don Bouzek
Music: Nuno Cristo
Puppets/Set/Costume Design: Jerrard and Diana Smith
Choreography: Christine De Leon
Performing Artists: Gwen Baillie, Dennis Balatbat, Jorge Barahona, Marie V. Cruz, Allan Merovitz, Kate Story
Stage Manager: Jennifer Schamehorn Assist. S.M. : Selena Landon Additional Visuals: Chris Smith
Costume Construction: Diana Smith, Martha Cockshutt
Puppet & Mask Assist: Nicole Bauberger

The Milky Way [1994]

Lakshmi, the Cow Goddess, created by Chris Smith.

Writer’s notes
The Milky Way is the fourth play about Canadian Dairy Farmers that I have written. While I grew up in Ottawa, my dad was raised on a farm which his family has farmed since 1837 – so I spend a lot of weekends picking up stones and baling hay. As an adult, I’ve been struck by the similarities between farmers and theatre workers – we do the work because it’s part of who we are, not for the financial return; farmers feed our bodies, culture feeds our soul. If we can’t feed ourselves, how can we call ourselves free? This play does not have a solution to the on-going crisis in Canadian agriculture, but it is meant to get people thinking about solution, or at least plans of action. When I began research in 1985, farmers made up 4% of the Canadian population. Now they are less than 3%. The character of Lakshmi, the Cow Goddess, comes out of my interest in ancient, earth-based religions. Without rejecting current religions, I believe that the old ways have a lot to teach us about the living energy and the equality of people, plants, animals and everything found on our Earth.
–Peggy Sample

Script: Peggy Sample
Songs: Peggy Sample with Marsha Coffey
Director/Stage Manager: Don Bouzek
Costume & Set Design: Chris Smith
Performing Artists: Dennis Balatbat, Doug Cleverley, Marie V. Cruz, Merle Matheson, Allan Merovitz, Kate Story
Additional Music/Recorded Vocals: Allan Merovitz, Peggy Sample
Assist S.M. Selena Landon

Stolen Lands [1995]

This anthology toured Ontario in a production by Stephen Bush and Monique Mojica of shortplays by writers including Daniel David Moses, Djanet Sears, Judith Thompson, and Guillermo Verdecchia.

1992 marked the 500th anniversary of the “discovery” of America by Christopher Columbus. For the people who lived here it was not something to be celebrated. It marked the beginning of an invasion that would drive Aboriginal people off their land and kill many thousands of them. To mark this, Steven Bush brought together a team of writers to create short plays looking at the theme, each from their own perspective.

Ground Zero produced the resulting show for a tour as our last project through the network of Learner’s Centres.

Writers: Eleanor Crowder, Willie Dunn, Monique Mojica, Djanet Sears, Judith Thomson, Daniel David Moses, Robin C. Pacific, Guillermo Verdecchia
Co-Directors: Steven Bush, Monique Mojica
Assist Director: Heather Majaury
Dramaturge: Jennifer Boyes-Manseau
Designer - Sets/Props/Costumes/Lighting: Allan Watts
Projections from Original Artwork: Carl Beam
Performing Artists: Gina Bertola, Chip Chuipka, Rolando Alvarez Glacoman, Glen Gould, Sandra Laronde, Muriel Miguel, Tina Bomberry
Stage Manager: Hilary Gordon Assist S.M.: Tamara Louks
Tour Coordinators: Janet Hill, Loree Lawrence