Stage Door News

Toronto: Theatre Passe Muraille and lemonTree creations present “Toka” online April 20-23

Monday, March 14, 2022

Continuing the 21.22 season, Theatre Passe Muraille in collaboration with lemonTree creations is thrilled to present the World Premiere of TOKA, written, performed, and choreographed by Indrit Kasapi and directed by Cole Alvis. This digital co-production culminates the lemonTree creations’ multi-year residency with Theatre Passe Muraille and will stream online from April 20th to 23rd.

TOKA follows the story of siblings who wrestle with the consequences of a long standing land dispute which results in generational death and violence. This startling work of physical theatre about modern-day blood feuds in post-Communist Albania, is delicate, evocative and heart-breaking. The ensemble cast brings together an accomplished group of multidisciplinary performers featuring Christopher Manousos, Kat Khan, Indrit Kasapi, Nicole Joy-Fraser, Riley Sims and William Yong.

TPM’s Interim Managing Director and the playwright/choreographer/performer of the show, Indrit Kasapi (he/him) draws on his Albanian heritage, and explores within this production themes of forgiveness, reconciliation and familial duty. TOKA (“land” in Albanian) is a reminder of the ongoing land disputes and the never ending cycles of violence we live with today.

“The gjakmarrja (pronounced Jyak-MARR-Ya) is an Albanian custom of seeking vengeance through blood that has attracted the attention of the World. I was deeply interested in exploring how forgiveness is possible when much of the world engages in punitive forms of justice. In creating this show I asked myself, “How are we going to forgive each other and move towards healing?” This production is a start to the conversation.” Kasapi explains.

In that vein, under the direction of 2 Spirit Michif (Métis) artist Alvis (she/her), the production is grounded in an awareness of the colonial history of Turtle Island (North America).

“In Toka, two families living in the mountains of Northern Albania are governed by an ancient code of law — referred to as the Kanun — that affect them both in turn.” Adds Cole Alvis, “To me, this story is also about treaties, promises, and what can happen when sacred agreements are not upheld by those in power.”

“What is startling to me about the story of Toka, is that I have to remind myself that it is a modern-day tale of revenge.” Says Artistic Director Marjorie Chan, “The truth is that all around the world we still suffer from the damaging consequences of colonial constructs such as ‘land-ownership’. Toka, in an interdisciplinary way, skillfully explores this human cost and path to healing.”

Gjakmarrja, blood feud in Albanian, is rooted in the Kanun and dates as far back as 5th century B.C., obliging that murder be repaid with murder. Male family members are expected to seek revenge in the name of familial honour or else be stigmatized by their community.

Under the Communist Dictatorship of Enver Hoxha (ruled 1944-54) blood feuds were outlawed, though the practice saw a resurgence in the 1990s during the country’s turbulent transition to democracy. Since 1991, over 12,000 revenge murders have reportedly been committed in Albania. Safe only in their own homes, many affected by these feuds live in isolation, for fear of death if they were to venture outside still today.

Tickets are priced at $5, $25 or $50 under a Pay-What-You-Can-Afford model. Those purchasing at the $50 level are helping to subsidize the $5 ticket price, and in doing so, making theatre more accessible for others. The company continues to offer accessibility initiatives for the digital presentation such as Audio Described performances, Relaxed performances and Captioned performances in English and Albanian. Tickets for TOKA are now available on the TPM website.

Photo: Christopher Manousos, Indrit Kasapi, William Yong and Nicole Joy-Fraser. © 2022 Brian Medina.