The Unpacking (7th Cousins) 2015 SummerWorks Review

Photo of Pennsylvania map by rockitpromoThe Unpacking (7th Cousins), playing at SummerWorks 2015, is the culmination of a month-long walking trip undertaken by Erin Brubacher and Christine Brubaker–or perhaps it’s just the first step in a new journey. When it seemed like everyone wanted to know if they were related, they began to joke that they were “7th Cousins.” Turns out that was a misnomer – they may actually be 6th cousins – but as they looked into their heritage, a long voyage by an ancestor from Pennsylvania to Ontario sparked their curiosity.

They wanted to recreate the trek, walk through their own fields, ford their own rivers, scare off their own bears (okay, that last one was more a necessity than a desire). Soon after the idea emerged, the planning began, and they were on their way. They gave themselves a limit of thirty days. Last night they returned home, and The Unpacking began.

Theatre and art festivals are made for marathon experiences; the very point is that they burst at the seams with things to do, the constant hubbub creating a passionate community. The Unpacking takes a marathon journey of over 700km and turns it into “Live Art.”

Why are we interested in such human feats? Why do we pick up and do them in the first place? Erin and Christine are interested in creating an audience connection and fostering discussion along these lines, or as Christine puts it, she wants “to see where the questions live.”

Our particular session, the first and the least formal as the beginning of the process, involved recreating the walking experience, traversing as many different terrains as possible while moving at a reasonable clip through Parkdale and Lakeshore. It was a nice way to get our heart rates up, and to help Erin and Christine taper off from the experience of walking nine hours a day.

Just like each day of every journey, each “performance” is necessarily going to be completely different, and except for the final potluck, can only be seen by a maximum of eight people. In the big city, this simulates the isolation felt by the two women as they walked, keenly perceiving the differences between them while sharing the same formative experience.

When we get back to the real world, however, we will all have more in common. Whether you are deeply rooted in your community or have more nomadic leanings, you will find something to empathize with here.

We had a special guest audience member: one of the kind people, initially a stranger who had put them up for a night in the midst of their travels through a sort of Mennonite couchsurfing grapevine, showed up to add his side of the experience. On our walk, we asked questions, heard stories, thought about what it all meant, and were even treated to ice cream.

I had a great time with Christine and Erin. They’re warm, open, and funny–a miracle, considering how recently they had returned from such an exhausting experience. We created a little family on our hour and a half sojourn.

Other presentations will include an attempt to tell the whole story in 45 minutes without any memory aids (what sticks with you? How linear is memory?), and the unpacking of photographs (which ones will the audience pick to hear stories about?) Each session will be a collaboration, partly shaped by the interests of the audience.

I won’t tell you to bring your walking shoes, because ours was the only walking session, and I won’t promise you ice cream. I will, on the other hand, definitely encourage you to spend some time with Erin and Christine and help them unpack their journey.


The Unpacking plays at a secret, ever-changing location that participants will receive by email after registering. Registration for The Unpacking is free as part of the Live Art Series and may be done online at this form.

Show times:

  • Saturday August 8th 11:00 AM
  • Saturday August 8th 12:30 PM
  • Monday August 10th 11:00 AM
  • Monday August 10th 12:30 PM
  • Tuesday August 11th 11:00 AM
  • Tuesday August 11th 12:30 PM
  • Tuesday August 11th 9:00 PM

Most individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Live Art Series tickets are free – $20. Tickets are available online, by phone at 888-328-8384, Monday – Friday 8:30am-5pm, in person at the SummerWorks Info Booth – located at SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street). Open August 4-16 from 10am-7pm (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee).

Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.

Photo by rockitpromo

One thought on “The Unpacking (7th Cousins) 2015 SummerWorks Review”

  1. An amazing feat!! Congratulations on the creative spark, the energy, and the sheer grit of walking 9 hours a day for one month. Look forward to hearing the stories and I believe that your lives – and perspectives – will never be the same again.

    Lynda Palazzi

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