Setting Bones: a story from the silences


By Anoushka Ratnarajah


The winners of the 2017 Fringe New Play Prize – lee williams boudakian, Kamee Abrahamian and Anoushka Ratnarajah – have been working with Associate Dramaturg mia amir on their play Setting Bones for the last seven months. Anoushka shares the challenges and deep explorations embedded in creating this far-reaching and personal work.


This show has taken more out of all of us than we could have anticipated. Each of us are navigating major shifts in our lives: balancing multiple projects, trying to survive financially, collaborating across distance and time.

The work of pulling story out of the gaps in our knowledge left by the intergenerational trauma of displacement, assimilation and the silences surrounding our ancestral stories is taxing. It’s taxing on our bodies, on our bank accounts, on our hearts and minds. The inherent risks of choosing the path of the artist is exponentially increased when you are a qtpoc. The barriers to training, time, resources, energy, health, money, the barriers simply to WILL something into being that has never existed before often feel completely insurmountable. But every time we have a break down, we have a break through. Every time we think, “This is it. This is the last thing I will ever write. This is the last project I will ever create. It’s too hard,” we arrive at the same conclusion:

I can’t not do this. This is my reason to live. This is the reason I live. This is the reason the universe conspired for my existence to even be.

lee williams boudakian rehearses Setting Bones

lee williams boudakian rehearses Setting Bones

We started writing this show with the task of creating a fictional family formed out of the shared and differing experiences of our own families and cultures. What started seven months ago has evolved into a piece of theatre that is delving into the whys and hows of the stories we hear and tell about ourselves. It is a show that sits in the silences that may never be filled, because those who carried those stories have left this earth, because the physical and emotional geographies of “home” and “origin” are quickly disappearing because of trauma, war and assimilation.

We have “homelands” that are on opposite sides of the earth, countries and lands that have been shaped by colonialism in unique and similar ways. Our ancestors and families have been displaced, been migrating, for centuries. Our peoples and lands have been on the edge of extermination multiple times in history. Imperialist forces have and continue to manipulate the ways in which our peoples move around the globe. Like many second and third generation settlers on Turtle Island, we have watched the ways in which these traumas have affected our grandparents and parents. We have felt the silences echo through our homes, between our family members. We have some clues to follow, some tales to trail, but for the most part, the act of writing this piece must come out the emptiness and inventions in our own bodies, hearts and minds.

And so we are arriving at a story that will weave in and out of the fiction and truths of our histories, families and present selves. A story that cannot fill in the gaps, so instead will sit in those silences, speak into them, and listen for whatever answers the echoes have for us.

Anoushka Ratnarajah rehearses Setting Bones

Anoushka Ratnarajah rehearses Setting Bones