Andrew Braun is a member of Rococode, whose latest record Don’t Worry It Will Be Dark Soon was released in February 2016. Paul Bergman’s latest record Anthropology was released in late 2015. Andrew and Paul both grew up in Altona, Manitoba, and were in a band together in high school. Andrew is presently based in Vancouver, BC; Paul remains in southern Manitoba. This dialogue about art and the meaning of musical endeavour took place via email over the summer of 2016. More >
Last summer, Rhubarb publisher Victor Enns asked award-winning author Sandra Birdsell about the rewards and challenges of gardening.
What’s the first garden you remember?
My earliest garden was my grandparents’ garden—the Schroeder grandparents in Morris. I lived with them at an early age, with my mother and about five of her children, while my father served away in the army.
Rhubarb: You have dedicated most of your professional life to presenting classical music to audiences on the radio, whether at CBC, Minnesota Public Radio, or now at Golden West in Winnipeg. What is the connection between that impressive career and your Mennonite background, growing up in Altona, Manitoba?
Eric Friesen: Growing up in Altona imbued in me a love of classical music, a love fostered both in our home and in the valuation of high culture among the Russländer. My father was a record collector and my earliest aural memories are of baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing Schubert lieder as I was falling asleep. Our house was always filled with recorded music, Arthur Rubenstein at the piano or Bach cantatas on those beautifully packaged Arkiv LPs from Germany. Altona also confirmed my romance with radio, a romance begun before CFAM arrived on the scene, but certainly emboldened by the presence of a radio station in my hometown, and which drew into a small prairie town such interesting and unusual characters as Ben Horch and Leonard Enns.
I know Dennis Gruending from my days in Saskatchewan in the 1980s. He and his wife Martha Wiebe have seen the inside of a few different Mennonite churches, usually in the more progressive General Conference churches of the day (now Mennonite Church Canada), where they have been reasonably comfortable with what I sometimes call “social justice” Mennonites. Many of my relatives, especially in my generation on my father’s side, carry on in this progressive tradition. My mother, on the other hand, was excommunicated from her Sommerfeleder congregation in the 1940s for marrying a Bergthaler and a Russländer. Politically, most of my relatives on my mother’s side would fit into the conservative religious right, dominant in southern Manitoba where I grew up. Gruending’s book Pulpit and Politics: Competing Religious Ideologies in Canadian Public Life (Kingsley Publishing, 2011) explores how these competing ideologies—of religious progressives and conservatives—vie for power and influence in Canadian politics. His blog is at www.dennisgruending.ca. I interviewed him on October 16, 2013.—Victor Enns
Though Patrick Friesen is best known for his collections of poetry, over the years he has made significant contributions as a writer for theatrical events. He has written pieces for dance with Stephanie Ballard and Margie Gillis; for the Dance Collective; and for performance for GroundSwell and the late Primus Theatre; and for multi-media collaboration. He has written for radio. Indeed, he has also written lyrics for musical performance.
The following, taken from an email conversation I had with Patrick Friesen in late February and early March, will focus on his work as a playwright. He has written five plays. The Shunning, now a classic of Canadian drama, based on his long poem of the same name, was produced by Prairie Theatre Exchange in 1985; The Raft was also produced by Prairie Theatre Exchange, in 1992; and the recently written triptych consisting of A Short History of Crazy Bone, The Sitter, and Non Sequitur, all featuring the same character of Crazy Bone. The Crazy Bone plays have not yet been produced; they are in development. I give a brief introduction to each play before it comes up in our conversation. —Per Brask
It was the idea of Veralyn Warkentin’s writing that I was initially drawn to: the idea of a feminist Mennonite playwright. Operating from a perspective outside of the Mennonite community, I was aware of the uneasy relationship between Mennonite culture and theatre and amazed at the existence of any Mennonite playwrights.
I knew that many notable Mennonite writers had critiqued and dissected the culture rather than affirming its tenets, often at a distance from the community—from a place of exile. My interest was further piqued by the fact that Warkentin was a writer originating from a community where women were traditionally cast in roles of servitude. I anticipated conflict and resistance in the writing. I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong. More >
David Bergen was born in a fishing village in British Columbia and grew up in Niverville, Manitoba. Author of seven novels and a short story collection, he is one of Canada’s most distinguished fiction writers. He has received numerous literary prizes, including the Scotiabank Giller Prize Award for The Time in Between, which also won McNally Robinson Book of the Year and the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction. The Matter with Morris won the Carol Shields Winnipeg Award in 2011, and Bergen was recently honoured with the Writers’ Trust Engel/Find- ley Award for an author in mid-career. Bergen lives with his family in Winnipeg. More >
Rhoda Janzen hit the motherlode with her second book, a memoir called The Mennonite in the Little Black Dress, a number one New York Times Best Seller in 2010. Her first book was the poetry collection Babel’s Stair, published in 2006. She holds a PhD from UCLA and teaches English and creative writing at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. She has just recently published a sequel memoir called Does This Church Make Me Look Fat? A Mennonite Finds Faith, Meets Mr. Right, and Solves Her Lady Problems (Grand Central, 257 pages, $24.99), which will be reviewed in a future issue of Rhubarb. Janzen was interviewed by Victor Enns in January. More >