Based on the lives and writings of four members of PEN Canada’s writers in-exile program, The TAXI Project provides a glimpse into what it means to be forced to leave your homeland to start your life anew. After years of incarceration by the Red Terror in Ethiopia, Seeyyee Seera struggles to become a mother to her children again. Alejandra Pineda remains haunted by memories of torture at the hands of the Mexican authorities for her role in a student uprising. Xiao Hong, amongst the protesters at the Tiananmen Square uprising in China, cannot return to see her dying mother. And finally, Exyou Peric–a Bosnian photo journalist who drives a taxi, the interior covered in Polaroid photos of of his passengers. We follow the characters on their journeys: attempting to be heard by a society that doesn’t speak their language, searching for employment, surviving the loneliness of a harsh Toronto winter, and struggling to find the energy necessary to keep on writing.
News & Reviews
“There’s so much emotion crammed into The TAXI Project–quiet emotion, it’s true, but the kind that lingers long after the lights come up–that you’ll walk out of the hour-long show feeling like one of the stuffed suitcases carried by the four characters.” —NOW Magazine
About the Authors
Emma 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. Exiled in Canada since May 2002, Beltran’s poetry has been published in various literary journals and anthologies. Beltran acted as lead writer for The TAXI Project, a collective play about home and exile written in collaboration with Martha Kuwee Kumsa, Sheng Xue and Goran Simic. She is a member of PEN Canada’s Writers in Exile Network.
Martha Kuwee Kumsa is an Oromo born and raised in Ethiopia. She worked as a journalist in the second half of the 1970s, producing and broadcasting Oromo radio programs and editing the women’s column for the Oromo weekly, Bariisa. She was jailed and tortured by the military regime in January 1980, and she stayed incarcerated without charge or trial for ten years. Amnesty International and PEN International launched a successful campaign on her behalf and she was released in 1989. She came to Canada in 1991 under the Canadian Government’s Women at Risk Program. She has participated in various PEN projects, including The Taxi Project, along with Emma Beltran, Goran Simic, and Sheng Xue.
Sheng Xue, a poet, writer, journalist, and political commentator, is one of Canada’s leading democratic rights activists. Sheng Xue grew up in Beijing but moved to Canada after the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989. Vice-president of the Federation for a Democratic China and a member of PEN Canada’s Writers in Exile Committee, Xue is also the co-founder of the China Rights Network. In 2000, Sheng Xue won the Canadian Association for Journalists Award for investigative journalism, and the National Magazine Award – the first Chinese Canadian so honoured. Xue has served as writer-in-residence at Carlton and McMaster universities, and as writer-in-exile for the city of Edmonton. She co-authored the play The Taxi Project, along with Goran Simic, Emma Beltran, and Martha Kuwee Kumsa.
Goran Simić was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is the author of eleven volumes of poetry, drama and short fiction, and his work has been translated into nine languages. One of the most prominent writers of the former Yugoslavia, Simic was trapped in the siege of Sarajevo. In 1995 he and his family were able to settle in Canada with the help of PEN. His books include: Sprinting from the Graveyard, Immigrant Blues, From Sarajevo, With Sorrow, Yesterday’s People, Sunrise in the Eyes of the Snowman, and Looking for Tito. Simic, along with Emma Beltran, Martha Kuwee Kumsa, and Sheng Xue, is a co-writer of The Taxi Project. In 2013, Simić returned to live in Sarajevo.
Erica Kopyto is a settler born to Eastern European Ashkenazi immigrants and raised in Tkaron:to, Dish With One Spoon Wampum Covenant Territory/Toronto. Erica worked as the Literary Manager at Toronto’s Nightwood Theatre, leading the development process of new plays written by women to stages across the country and around the world. She was instrumental in the creation of The Taxi Project.
Weyni Mengesha is the Artistic Director of Soulpepper Theatre Company and an award-winning director known for her groundbreaking work and community engagement. Weyni has directed shows across Canada that have gone on to tour nationally and internationally, and have been developed into television shows playing on CBC, Global, and Netflix. She has also directed in London, New York, Los Angeles, garnering an NAACP nomination for Best Direction as well as multiple Dora nominations and awards for Outstanding Direction. She contributed to the creation of The Taxi Project.