Jivesh Parasram’s play Take d Milk, Nah? looks at race, religion and culture in an attempt to understand what it means to be Canadian. Shortlisted for the 2021 Governor General’s Literary Award and adapted for CBC Radio’s PlayMe audio series, Rumble Theatre’s production of Take d Milk, Nah? is wrapping up a tour of the East Coast this week with three performances at Theatre New Brunswick’s Open Space Theatre.
Origin stories are the best, aren’t they? Whether we are talking about a song, a painting, a story, a play, or you and I for that matter, every origin story is uniquely fascinating in its own way. Sometimes the connections between past and present follow a clear and logical path. Other times they zig, zig, and change direction completely. The latter is certainly the case with Jivesh Parasram’s much celebrated one-person play Take d Milk, Nah?, running this week at Theatre New Brunswick’s Open Space Theatre.
“I think the origins would be somewhere in New Brunswick,” said Parasram, speaking on a recent episode of TNB’s Behind the Play podcast series. “I think we were driving back from Halifax. We had gone down, my brother and my sister-in-law and I, to surprise my other brother for Christmas. We were driving back in this snow storm. We were definitely in New Brunswick somewhere…going back to Toronto. I just started making weird cow sounds. That became the game. My brother was really trying to focus on driving, but me and my sister-in-law just kept on making various animal sounds, which I’m sure was terrible for him. But then that kind of led to like, ‘okay, but like Trinidadian cow,’ so incorporating regional accents into it. That’s kind of where it started.”
From making cow sounds to pass the time on the long car ride home, to a short story shared at a storyteller’s evening about a time he helped (or didn’t help) deliver a cow, these various elements and several others slowly began to collect and form the foundation for something completely different.
“We had that for a little while and then step by step, we kind of iteratively developed it a little bit more and incorporated other stuff,” said Parasram. “By the time we got to the full production of it, there’s a whole other section of the play that definitely wasn’t there before. It was just a ten minute story to start with.”
Together with co-creators Tom Arthur Davis and Graham Isador, the idea ballooned into a full, 90 minute stage production exploring race, religion, and various cross-cultural connections. The “Hin-dos and Hin-don’ts,” as the play’s description notes, within the intersection of Parasram’s own self-described, “highly hyphenated cultures.”
Take d Milk, Nah? made its West Coast debut at The Cultch theatre in Vancouver in October 2019 before heading to Ottawa and the National Arts Centre in January 2020. The play was adapted for radio and produced as part of CBC’s PlayMe podcast series and received a Jessie Richardson Critics’ Choice Innovation Award nomination later that same year.
What started as a simple game of Annoy the Driver, continues to gain momentum as an exploration of what it means to be Canadian. In 2021, Take d Milk, Nah? was published by Playwrights Canada Press and was nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award that same year.
Last fall, TNB joined together with three Nova Scotia-based theatre companies to bring Parasram and his play to the East Coast this spring. The tour began at the end of March with a sold-out performance at Eastern Front Theatre in Dartmouth before moving on to multi-date performances at Antigonish Summer Theatre Festival and Highland Arts Theatre in Cape Breton. The tour wraps up this week with three performances at TNB Open Space Theatre starting tomorrow night with tickets starting at just $5.
April 13 | 7:30 p.m. | Buy tickets
April 14 | 7:30 p.m. | Buy tickets
April 15 | 2 p.m. | Buy tickets
Content Warning: Use of incense, heavy haze, and strobing lights. Some audience interaction, engages topics of racialization, includes (non graphic) descriptions of racial violence, narrative use of racial slurs, as well as descriptions of bovine birthing processes, British Colonialism, consumption of dairy, and liberal use of disputed quotes from Winston Churchill. And a lot of swears.