A Not-So-Austere Crash Course in Anti-Austerity

Music was pouring from the Tuesday Night Cafe Theatre space, bubbling out of the Morrice Hall on McTavish St.

Alysa Touati, Summer Mahmud, and Sarah Mitchell—otherwise known as The Rosemary Disrupt—set the tone. Mitchell on bass and Touati on guitar harmonized together to the beat of Mahmud on the drums, making for some chill pre-show vibes.

The Fishbowl Collective, comprised of Hannah Kaya and Connor Spencer, have joined forces with Tuesday Night Cafe for the first time. The two McGill students have been working on a theatrical adaptation of Caytee Lush’s “What the Fuck am I Doing Here—An Anti-Folk Opera” since September. On Nov. 16, their efforts finally came to fruition.

Walking into the performance space, I felt like I had stumbled upon the beginnings of a Montreal protest. Along the walls were signs that read “À la rue MTL pour la gratuité scolaire,” and other phrases meant to invoke a rise to action.
There were no chairs for us to sit on. Instead, there was carpeting and a number of pillows, giving the room a warm and safe atmosphere.

In a previous interview with The Link, Spencer and Kaya explained that this was the kind of atmosphere they were aiming for. “We want to create a space where people can actively participate in the storytelling and feel safe,” Connor said of the cozy space.

The performance itself served as a platform to inform its audience of the anti-austerity movement that has been active in Concordia and McGill since late 2014.

Whether or not you’re versed in political jargon, the information that was shared during the performance was easy to comprehend. And in the form of music, it kept us intrigued.

The play followed the story of a young woman getting involved in the 2012 student protests. The Rosemary Disrupt belted out songs such as “Part-Time Waitress, Part-Time Revolutionary” and “Betrayal.”

Meanwhile, the performers coaxed participation from their audience, either by getting us to sing along to the choruses, or by standing up and playing the part of a student activist or a stuck up government worker.

Taking us back to 2012—when the student movement began its largest-ever general strike against the spike in tuition—to present day, the show was a crash course in anti-austerity and why it’s important to know about it. Spencer aptly described it as “neoliberalism on steroids.”

Not only was anti-austerity explained, but also what it means to be an anarchist and what actions one would take to achieve their goals. It’s not just about guns a-blazin’ and violent actions, but rather breaking things down and rebuilding it from the bottom up.

At one point, the performers gave us a quick rundown on “cassarollin’”—a movement in which students and community members took to residential streets after being restricted from protests downtown. With pots and pans in hand, the protesters banged around with spoons in order to cause a ruckus.

We were encouraged to pick up some of the pots and spoons that were scattered around the space, joining the performers in their chant with a noise of our own.

Although I wasn’t a part of cassarollin’ when it actually happened, something resonated with me. I wanted to help the cause and bang my pots with the protesters.

TNC’s “What the Fuck Am I Doing Here—An Anti-Folk Opera” was an informative and fun show. But most importantly, it reminds us that the fight isn’t over yet. We still have to rally together and make our voices heard.

“We have power in our numbers, voices, and even in this room,” Touati exclaimed. “Things aren’t gonna stay rosy for us. We have to keep our eyes peeled and remain conscientious.”

_What the Fuck Am I Doing Here? // Nov. 16-19 and 23-26 // Morrice Hall (3485 McTavish St.) Doors open at 7:45 p.m. // PWYC

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