PEN Canada in Association with the Art for Real Change Collective Presents The TAXI Project

    TORONTO, July 15 /CNW/ - PEN Canada and the Art for Real Change
Collective present The TAXI Project - a new play about home and exile and the
power of the written word.
    Written by a highly acclaimed group of international writers from PEN
Canada's Writers in Exile Program, The TAXI Project is based on the lives and
writings of Emma Beltran, Martha Kuwee Kumsa, Goran Simic and Sheng Xue and is
being directed by Weyni Mengesha.
    The play is part of a multidisciplinary event exploring freedom of
expression, social justice, and the complex realities of refugee and immigrant
experiences. Performances will be accompanied by readings by members of the
Writers in Exile Program, an interactive workshop based on the themes of the
play (daytime performances only) and the screening of a short film on youth
and freedom of expression.
    As Sheng Xue a playwright of the project explains, "The TAXI Project has
provided a unique opportunity for writers like myself to tell our stories and
learn how the struggle for human rights is being fought by writers around the
    Isobel Harry Executive Director of PEN Canada goes on to explain, "This
is a very exciting collaboration between our Writers in Exile Program and
local theatre artists that we hope raises critical awareness about the freedom
of expression issues that PEN Canada works for locally and internationally"
    The project began in 2006 with funding from the Ontario Trillium
Foundation, Ontario Arts Council, Ontario Arts Foundation, and the Toronto
Arts Council and engages high schools, universities, and communities across
Ontario in a creative exploration around themes of freedom of expression,
exile, and refugee experiences. Following the two weeks of performances in
Toronto, The TAXI Project will be touring across Ontario in the spring of


    PERFORMANCE DATE:   July 28  - August 9

                        Previews July 28th-July 31st
                        Opening Night Friday, August 1st

                        Monday-Thursday 2:00pm
                        Friday and Saturday 7:30pm

    LOCATION:           The Alchemy Theatre, 133 Tecumseth

    TICKETS:            Pay-what-you can. There is limited seating so please
                        make reservations in advance

                        PEN Canada Contact: Josh Bloch
               416-703-8448 x23


    The TAXI Project Play

    Written by Emma Beltran, Martha Kuwee Kumsa, Sheng Xue, Goran Simic with
    Erica Kopyto and Weyni Mengesha
    Starring: Miranda Edwards, Patrick Garrow, Mayahuel Tecozautla, Diana Tso
    Directed by: Weyni Mengesha
    Lighting Design by Gillian Wolpert
    Video Design by Simon Clemo
    Sound Design by Thomas Payne
    Set and Costume Design by Jackie Chau

    Bios of Writers

    Emma Beltran
    Emma Beltran is a poet from Mexico. Since 1994, she has been involved in
the struggle of indigenous peoples facilitating poetry and popular theatre
workshops for women and children throughout Mexico. Beltran was a founding
member of the first community radio station in Mexico's history during the
student strike at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in 1999. This
work caused her to be subject to political charges, kidnapping and torture, by
the Mexican National Army (March 2001). Exiled in Canada since May 2002,
Beltran was an award-winning artist selected for Artscape's Gibraltar Point
International Artist Residency Program in 2005. Her poetry has been published
in various literary journals and anthologies. She is a member of PEN Canada's
Writers in Exile Network and was a Writer in Residence at the University of
Windsor during the spring of 2006. Beltran had recently finalized her
participation at the Wired Writing Studio at The Banff Centre for the Arts,
from which she was granted a full-scholarship. Emma worked as a
Writer-Consultant for the TAXI-Project with PEN Canada and ARCfest and is a
member of freeDimensional, an international organization that creates
community arts space and local resources for the support and protection of
individuals who create dialogue on global issues and inequalities through
their art and media.

    Sheng Xue grew up in Beijing. She moved to Canada soon after the June 4th
Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. In 2000, she won the Canadian Association
of Journalists Award for Investigative Journalism and the National Magazine
Award, for an investigative report on the lives of Chinese boat refugees
published in Maclean's magazine. In 2001, Sheng Xue investigated China's most
prominent smuggling case and published a book (in Chinese), Unveiling the Yuan
Hua Case, which soon became a bestseller in Chinese communities outside China
and created shockwaves both inside and outside China. China's Propaganda
Ministry immediately banned the book. Since March 2002, Sheng Xue has been a
regular commentator for NTDTV, a global Chinese TV network. In 2005, she
joined Deutsche Welle (Voice of Germany) has been its North American
correspondent. Sheng Xue is a member of the Editorial Board of June 4 Poetry,
a collection of poems commemorating the June 4th Movement. United Writers
Press in Hong Kong published her poetry collection book Seeking the Soul of
Snow in Dec 2007 but Chinese authority banned the book before it was published
in Feb. 2007. Sheng Xue is the Writer in Residence in Carlton University in
the year of 2007. She is accepted as the writer in Residence in McMaster
University in the year of 2009.

    Goran Simic was born in Bosnia and has published many volumes of poetry,
drama and short fiction. His work has been translated into nine languages and
been published and performed in several European countries. One of the most
prominent writers of the former Yugoslavia, Simic and his family were trapped
in the siege of Sarajevo. In 1995 they were able to settle in Canada as a
result of a PEN Freedom to Write Award and he became a resident at the
University of Toronto's Massey College as part of their writer-in-exile
program. PEN's Writers in Exile Committee supported Simic's integration into
the Canadian writing world, and he and poet Fraser Sutherland collaborated on
a short-run collection of poetry called Peace and War, as well as a theatrical
piece. In 2003, Brick Books published Simic's first full collection of poems
in Canada, Immigrant Blues, translated by Amela Simic. He continues to write
and give readings.

    Martha Kumsa is an Oromo, born and raised in Ethiopia. She worked as a
journalist there until being imprisoned early in 1980. She spent 10 years in
jail and was released upon the intervention of PEN and Amnesty International.
PEN Canada adopted her as an Honorary Member while she was in prison and
helped bring her to Canada after her release. She was one of two scholars to
join the new Scholars-at-Risk Program at U of T's Massey College. In the midst
of a career change, Martha studied for her PhD at the Faculty of Social Work,
University of Toronto. She has since accepted a tenure-track teaching position
at Wilfrid Laurier University.


    PEN Canada is a literary and human rights organization supporting the
universal right to freedom of expression. PEN works on behalf of writers, at
home and abroad, who have been forced into silence for writing the truth as
they see it


    The Art for Real Change Collective formed in 2003 and is comprised of
artists and activists committed to using art as a tool for social change. The
Collective produces ARCfest (Art for Real Change Festival) Toronto's Social
Justice Art Festival, and its members developed a series of events for the Ken
Saro-Wiwa Foundation marking the ten-year anniversary of the death of the
Nigerian activist Ken Saro Wiwa.

For further information:

For further information: PEN Canada Contact: Josh Bloch,, (416) 703-8448 x23

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