From bombastic to reflective: How 'Take d Milk, Nah' transformed from stage to podcast

A key feature of Jivesh Parasram’s “identity play” Take d Milk, Nah is an interactive and immediate call-and-response experience — a decidedly awkward challenge when he adapted his production for CBC Podcasts’ PlayMe series of audio stage adaptations.
(Marko Kovacevic)

A key feature of Jivesh Parasram's "identity play" Take d Milk, Nah is an interactive and immediate call-and-response experience — a decidedly awkward challenge when he adapted his production for CBC Podcasts' PlayMe series of audio stage adaptations. 

So what changed? 

"In some ways not so much, but also everything," says Parasram.

"In the live performance there's a lot of very clear call and response, where here I'm kinda just yelling into the abyss. I can see an audience in my head, but I don't get the reactions to play off of. So in that way, the tone ends up a bit less bombastic and a bit more... reflective, is probably the best term." 

Before social isolation during the pandemic began, Take d Milk, Nah was set to storm the stage at Toronto's Theatre Passe Muraille, a venue that showcases complex and contemporary Canadian stories. Instead the play makes its audio premiere on CBC Podcasts' PlayMe series. 

PlayMe's goal is to transform the way theatre is experienced by turning contemporary plays into bingeable audio dramas, or as they put it, "Digital Theatre."

"Jiv's show was the first one we recorded in the age of physical distancing," explains PlayMe podcast host Chris Tolley. 

"He recorded himself on his laptop while we connected via Zoom. He was just as entertaining in his home office as I imagine he would be on stage."

"Jiv's play is unlike anything else we have presented on PlayMe," adds fellow host Laura Mullin. 

"It's funny, bold, and breaks some key theatrical conventions by asking audiences to literally and metaphorically make space for each other."

Maybe identity is just an illusion. But it certainly feels real when you're fighting to belong. ((Ben Shannon/CBC))

Parasram's Take d Milk, Nah is a solo show that's a journey of personal storytelling based around what it means to be a multi-hyphenated Canadian growing up in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. With that said, audiences will be surprised the podcast adaptation kicks off with a screed by Parasram where he roasts the idea of "identity plays" as being "wanky."

"I think that my criticism of the identity play has less to do with the actual play itself, but more the framing of the form. I'm hesitant of the history of ethnographic work in theatre. The idea that one auto-ethnographic, or even auto-biographical piece speaks for the experience of a community," says Parasram.

"The good ones are very good. At the same time, representation is important. Because while I'm not the authoritative voice on the Indo-Caribbean experience, I do still share that heritage and history with many people who might not have been given the opportunity to really analyze what that means."

Unlike traditional identity plays, Take d Milk, Nah is quite humorous, and isn't afraid to make audiences laugh, which Parasram says he modeled specifically on Yagna and Puja traditions in a ritual-meets-festival-prayer community-type gathering.  

"They're not super serious events," explains Parasram. 

"They're serious in their devotion… but they're also fun. The best ones are full of jokes, because if you try to apply a material or rational lens to understanding dharmic philosophy… it's absurd. And that's funny!"

Take d Milk, Nah is available now on CBC Listen, and you can check out the first installment below:

Jiv is Canadian. Jiv is Indian. And Hindu. And West Indian. And Trinidadian too. Or maybe he is just colonized. In order to explore all these hyphenated identities, he creates the first-ever Hindu-Caribbean-Canadian identity play — even though he hates identity plays. He starts with a brief history of indentured servitude in Trinidad, and his family. 32:38

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