Hazel Venzon © Caleb Johnston
Hazel Venzon © Caleb Johnston

Nanay is a testimonial theatre project designed to engender public debate about Canada’s Live-In Caregiver Program, and directly addresses the experiences of Filipino domestic workers who come to Canada as migrant labourers. Nanay transforms very conventional qualitative interview transcripts into testimonial theatre, which is to say, our project is based entirely on verbatim monologues taken from interviews conducted over a 15 year period with domestic workers, their children and Canadian employers. Our overall objective in Nanay is to forge a more complex identification with both the plight of domestic workers, as well as that of middle-class families struggling to secure affordable care in Canada.

The production premiered at Vancouver’s 2009 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, and then toured internationally to Berlin’s HAU1 Theatre as part of their Your Nanny Hates You! Festival, an international conference focused on the issue of global care and the family. We have recently conducted a script reading with professional actors at the 2012 annual conference of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) in Edinburgh, and materials from the production were curated into an exhibition at the University of Glasgow.

With support from Canada's Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the United Kingdom's Economic and Social Research Council, we are currently taking Nanay to the Philippines. Our performance in Manila will be followed by a series of public forums in the cities of Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, London and Glasgow; these forums will bring together migrant advocacy groups, academics, and policy makers for constructive dialogue on the politics of labour migration and the ethics of care.

Director Alexander Ferguson
Writers Geraldine Pratt, Caleb Johnston
Assistant Directors Carlo Sayo, Charlene Sayo
Dramaturge Martin Kinch
Stage Manager Noa Anatot
Costume Designer Barbara Clayden
Lighting Designer John Webber
Sceneographer Andreas Kahre
Set Designer Tamara Unroe
Actors Mellissa Dionisio, Karen Rae, Hazel Venzon,
Patrick Keating, Alexa Devine, Lissa Neptuno, Delia Brett, Erin Wells
Producer Caleb Johnston

* Nanay was created in collaboration with the Philippine Women Centre of British Columbia.


Pratt, Geraldine and Caleb Johnston. (Forthcoming, 2012) “Staging testimony in Nanay”. The Geographical Review

Johnston, Caleb and Geraldine Pratt. 2010. “Nanay (Mother): a testimonial play”. Cultural Geographies 17(1): 123-133. 

Pratt, Geraldine and Caleb Johnston. 2009. “Translating research into theatre: Nanay: a testimonial play”. BC Studies 163: 123-132. Reprinted in Popular Political Theatre and Performance. Julie Salverson (ed). Toronto: Playwrights Canada (2010).

Ferguson, Alexander. 2010. "Improvising the document". Canadian Theatre Review 143: 35-41.