Ethnic and cultural diversities III: ‘Project Other’

Ethnic and cultural diversities III: ‘Project Other’

Nina tells the story of the development of her ‘Project Other’, initially undertaken at Humber College, and then at the National Theatre School, where students are asked to play characters of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds than their own. The complexities of appropriation versus the sensitive portrayal of cultural difference are discussed and practical solutions to thorny issues of representing ‘otherness’ are proposed.

'Project Other,' Nina Lee Aquino, artistic director of Factory Theatre

Nina Lee Aquino

Nina Lee Aquino is an award-winning director and dramaturge. She was the former Artistic Director of fu-GEN Asian Canadian Theatre Company and Cahoots Theatre Company; and is now the current Artistic Director of Factory Theatre.

She is the editor of Canada’s first Asian-Canadian 2-volume drama anthology love + relasianships and the co-editor of the award winning New Essays on Canadian Theatre Volume One: Asian Canadian Theatre (Playwrights Canada Press).

Awards for her work include: the Ken McDougall Award 2004, the Canada Council John Hirsch Prize 2008, and two Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Outstanding Direction.




  1. How can the idea of a ‘universal play’—one with allegedly universally intelligible  meanings—limit one’s ability to accurately represent or display persons of colour that may be featured in such a play?
  2. How can asking participants in Nina’s ‘Project Other’ to do in-depth research on characters whose cultural and ethnic realities differ from their own serve to prepare actors-in-training to negotiate cultural and ethnic difference in their work as performing artists? 
  3. What are some useful strategies that can be used in a training environment to negotiate potentially culturally offensive representations that can often surface in plays or in culture more widely; for example: racist depictions of other-than-white bodies such as ‘blackface’?
  4. How can partnerships and collaborations between artists of varying cultural heritages help creative communities—such as classrooms, studios, theatres, performance collectives, etc.— approach complex questions about representing ‘difference’ without risking the appropriation of stories from minoritized groups? 

References and Resources

 Plays referenced include

  1. Banana Boys by Leon Aureus
  2. Agokwe by Waawaate Fobister
  3. BornReady by Joseph Jomo Pierre
  4. Letters to My Grandma by Anusree Roy
  5. Leo by Rosa Laborde
  6. Fish Eyes by Anita Majumdar
  7. Gas Girls by Donna Michelle St.Bernard
  8. The Madness of the Square by Majorie Chan
  9. Dreary and Izzy by Tara Beagan
  10. Twisted by Charlotte Corbeil­ Coleman and Joseph Jomo Pierre
  11. The Making of St. Jerome by Marie Beath Badian
  12. Miss Orient(ed) by Nina Lee Aquino and Nadine Villasin
  13. paper SERIES by David Yee
  14. Dust by Jason Maghanoy


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