Actors scheduled to perform at IMPACT 17 in Kitchener denied visas

Three international actors who were set to perform at the IMPACT 17 theatre festival in Kitchener have been denied a visa to travel to Canada.

Organizers say shows may have to be cancelled

The Raft is a production that tells the story of illegal migration over the Mediterranean in a small raft. (provided photo Tarek Mrad)

Three actors who were set to perform at the IMPACT 17 theatre festival in Kitchener have been denied a visa by Canada.

The three actors were going to be in a production of The Raft  which tells the story of Arab and African refugees escaping on a raft in the Mediterranean  from North Africa to Italy.

The artists, one from Tunisia and two from Benin Republic in West Africa, were going to perform the Canada-Tunisia co-production in a three city tour of Kitchener, Halifax and Montreal.  

But the fact they have no visa may leave the production in jeopardy.

Majdi bou-Matar, the artistic director of the IMPACT theatre festival, said they received a generic letter from their Canadian consulates and they were given reasons why their applications were rejected.  

"The embassy was not convinced that the artists will return to their home country after their temporary stay in Canada," bou-Matar said, adding Canadian officials are concerned the actors's lack of financial means at home may mean they'd try to remain here.

Two of the artists, one from each country, have re-applied for visas, but bou-Matar thinks if it goes through the regular processing time, it will be too late for the Canadian run of the performance.

The second actor from Benin Republic did not reapply for a visa.

Cancel or carry on

If they don't get a visa during the second attempt, it may mean the festival will have to cancel the show or find a way to do it without them.

"We are working hard to keep the show going even if we [the two directors] have to jump in an fill in for the actors, we're going to have to do that."

Bou-Matar and another director from Tunisia are co-directing the show.  

The actors denied the visa travel all the time, bou-Matar said, but this is the first time they would've come to North America.

IMPACT — or International Multicultural Platform for Alternative Contemporary Theatre — focuses on diverse work from Canada and around the world and is to be held in Kitchener between Sept 26 to Oct 1.

This is not the first time actors have been denied visas as part of the festival. In 2015, Iraq's National Theatre Company had to use Skype to take part in the festival after the actors were denied Canadian visas.