When evalyn parry takes the stage at Raw Sugar Café this week, the Toronto theatre artist won’t have a bottle of water by her side.
Parry’s work frequently dissects social, environmental and political topics. One of her most popular songs, “Bottle This,” rages against the bottled water industry. She stipulates in her performance rider that tap water is her preferred beverage.
Her song, which is driven by the beat of dripping water, asks Canadians to “think before you drink.” She calls the bottled water scheme “a crazy cycle that started as an amazing advertising coup when they convinced people to pay for something that had previously been free.
“We somehow bought into the idea that bottled water is better, when in actual fact the evidence usually shows that it’s not better. In general Canadians enjoy safe, clean, excellent tap water.”
Recently, parry fell in love with the simple act of riding a bicycle. Her show Spin pays homage to the environmentally friendly form of transportation and the women who once relied on it.
Through her research, parry discovered numerous women of the 19th-century who fought for women’s rights and who had a deep connection to the bicycle and the freedom that came with riding.
From Annie Londonderry to Francis Willard, who was quite likely a closeted lesbian, Spin recounts their tales of struggle and the power they harnessed while cruising on two wheels.
“The bike was an utterly transformational kind of machine that literally, and also beautifully, symbolically, gave freedom of mobility to women,” she says.
She says she learned about the subject of freedom when she joined 75 international students on a trip to Canada’s Arctic.
While journeying through our country’s northern lands as part of a Students on Ice expedition, parry says, she was shocked to learn of our government’s treatment of Inuit peoples.
Like many Canadians, she was unaware that many Inuit communities were relocated to unsuitable locations in the mid-20th century.
“It’s a history that we’re not taught in school,” she says. “There is all this talk about the Arctic these days because as global warming is changing things up there, resources are becoming more available and the government has a vested interest in developing those resources.”
The Arctic cruise also opened her eyes to the reality of global warming and the effect it is having on northerners.
“Global warming is affecting that part of the world and thus the rest of the world. The Arctic is fundamentally significant to the rest of the global climate. Climate change is impacting northern people, their livelihoods and their ability to hunt, fish and feed themselves in traditional ways.”
Parry’s song “Northwest Passage Revisited” is inspired by her Arctic voyage. She will perform this track as well as excerpts from Spin at her show, alongside Ottawa poet Luna Allison.