Actor Candice Fiorentino is returning to Cranbrook with the latest production of Edmonton-based Poeima Producions

Actor Candice Fiorentino is returning to Cranbrook with the latest production of Edmonton-based Poeima Producions

From war zone to ESL class

Fiorentino, Poeima Productions bringing latest play to Cranbrook

Dark memories of the war in the Bosnia in the 1990s come surging up from underneath a refugee’s presentation to her English-as-a-second-language class, in the latest production from Poeima Productions, coming to Cranbrook this month.

“Anatolia Speaks,” a one-actor show featuring MBSS grad Candice Fiorentino, is running three nights at the Studio Stage Door — Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 20, 21, and 22.

Poiema Productions is an Edmonton-based theatre company founded in 2009 by Fiorentino, Melissa Heagy, Brianne Jang and Sara Vickruck, all graduates of the Grant MacEwan University Theatre Arts Program. Poiema is a Hebrew word meaning workmanship and masterpiece. Over the four years of company’s existence, they have included Cranbrook, including “The Seminar,” “Happily Ever After,” and last year’s “Middleton: A Folk Musical.”

But “Anatolia Speaks” is something new for the troupe — their first one-person show and their first written by an outside playwright.

“I’ve always wanted to do a one-person show,” Fiorentino said. “It’s new to me, and an exciting challenge so far.”

“Anatolia Speaks” is written by Canadian playwright, Kenneth Brown, author or co-author of over 30 produced plays, and one of Fiorentino’s instructors from college. “Anatolia” is his latest play, and is being premiered by Fiorentino at venues across Canada, including the London, Ontario, and Edmonton Fringe Festivals.

I’ve been working on it with (Brown) since last September,” Fiorentino said. “Working with him one-on-one was the most exciting and terrifying experience — realizing when you get to rehearsal that you’re the only one.”

The gist of the play is this: Anatolia is a new Canadian immigrant working at Superstore after fleeing war-torn Bosnia. Today, it is her turn to present to her ESL class. She is ever-cheerful and loves her new life but questions about her past reveal a darker story beneath the smile.

Fiorentino has found the reaction to her performances to be quite profound.

“It’s been going fastastic,” she said. “It’s been interesting that after the show, I’ve often had ESL teachers come up to me with some of the stories that they’ve heard — unfortunately, they’re usually not very nice ones.

“I’ve been doing the Fringe festival for seven years, and touring, and I’ve gotten the most responses from this show. I’ve been getting five star reviews and really great comments from people. It’s been so exciting to do a show that makes a difference and that has a great message behind it.”

Poeima Productions is now in its fourth year. “We’re learning a little more every year, a stretching our horizons and taking on new tasks,” Fiorentino said. This is the first year we’re taking on new playwrights.

“Anatolia Speaks” plays at the Studio Stage Door in Cranbrook on Friday, Sept. 20 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, Sept. 21. at 7:30 pm; Sunday, Sept. 22 at 2 pm;

Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for students and seniors, available at Lotus Books or at the door,  hour prior to show (cash only, subject to availability).