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Actress extols raw power of role tackling racism

Actress Nadia Gandhi has been in numerous plays, musicals and even TVshows throughout her career, but she says her role in Naan Bread is thefirst one that has scared her.


Actress Nadia Gandhi has been in numerous plays, musicals and even TV shows throughout her career, but she says her role in Naan Bread is the first one that has scared her.

It’s not that the play, a production of New Ottawa Repertory Theatre, is scary in the traditional thriller sense. What scares Gandhi is the truth and rawness of the script.

“It’s been a challenge,” Gandhi says of playing Mrs. Singh — an Ottawa shopkeeper who has to confront ghosts of the past when a British bricklayer with links to her childhood shows up in her store.

“This play is haunting and, more than that, sad. But beautiful, because it tells the truth. Things are not rosy, life can be ugly and full of crap and people are evil. But it’s gaining the ability to accept that and move on which can be truly rewarding as a human being living in this messed-up ugly and absolutely magnificent world,” Gandhi says of the play.

Written by Doug Phillips, the play boldly confronts issues of racism and the immigrant experience, both in Canada and universally. Naan Bread has won awards for best visual production and best new script at the Eastern Ontario Drama League Festival.

Gandhi says she was immediately drawn to the writing of the piece, which to her is both eloquent and raw.

She said it was also a “rewarding struggle” getting into the skin of her character, and confronting some of her own experiences with racism. It was something she says director Paul Dervis encouraged her and her fellow performers to do in order to find authentic emotions.

“When I was growing up I was called Paki and other names and it was horrible, but in a way I just got used to it. I think a lot of new Canadians might expect that it’s just part of the experience, but it can be very hard,” she explains.

But what Gandhi also loves about the play is how it represents the way immigrants can be survivors.

“I like Mrs. Singh’s strength. She is stubborn, and has flaws, but she has a will to survive no matter what and I think that is a characteristic inherent in people when they settle in a new place.”

Naan Bread runs through Sunday at the Arts Court Theatre, 2 Daly Ave. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and can be reserved by phone at 613-231-7562.

After covering hard news for a few years, Kim discovered her real passion – writing about the wonderful world of music, theatre, visual arts and literature.

 
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