Primrose Madayag Knazan wins 2021 Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition.

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Author walks path from her Filipino mother to her husband’s Jewish religion

By Charmaine Janis Rodriguez

Filipina-Canadian playwright Primrose Madayag Knazan is the winner of the 2021 Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition.

Madayag Knazan’s work, “Precipice,” was chosen by the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, together with the Harold Green Jewish Theatre, Segal Centre for the Arts, The Winnipeg Jewish Theatre and Neptune Theatre, a report of said.

She received $1000 donated by the Asper Foundation. The Winnipeg Jewish Theatre and The Harold Green Jewish Theatre will also present a Between Stages public staged reading of Precipice as part of her prize.

Second place honors went to “In Her Madim” by Rebecca Ostroff from Toronto, Ontario and the third place winner is “Camp” by Naomi Tessler from Toronto, Ontario.

“Precipice” is the story of Sharrah’s conversion story to Judaism—a journey that takes her from her future in-laws’ Seder table to a synagogue in the Philippines. Caught between her Filipino mother’s expectations and her brother’s estrangement from the family, she wonders if she’s ready to walk the path of the Torah, the reads.

Based in Winnipeg, Madayag Knazan, who is also a book author, food blogger and mother, writes from a Filipino-Canadian, Jewish, and woman’s perspective.

Her plays have been staged at the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre (reading of Precipice at the So Nu? festival), Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (Where.Are.You.From.), Winnipeg Fringe Festival, Sarasvati Production’s FemFest (Wildflowers & Wallflowers; Breast Milk, Best Milk), and Carlos Bulosan/Theatre Amihan’s Tales from the Flip Side Filipino-Canadian playwright’s festival (Then Comes Marriage). Her plays Shades of Brown and Two Browns Don’t Make a White have been published by Scirocco Drama and Playwright’s Canada Press as well.

Her first novel, Lessons in Fusion, was published by Great Plains Publications.

Lessons in Fusion is about 16-year-old food blogger Sarah who embarks on a virtual cooking competition that pushes her to explore her Filipino heritage.

Like Sarah, Madayag Knazan is Jewish and reconnected with her Filipino roots later in life. Her family immigrated to Winnipeg from the Philippines in 1974.

“I grew up at a time when my parents were basically told, ‘You can’t speak Filipino to your daughter anymore because she’s not going to be smart, she’s not going to succeed’,” she told the Winnipeg Free Press.

“I lost that tie to my culture and I’ve been fighting to get that back since then.”

Lessons in Fusion is all about embracing multiple, complex identities while challenging the expectations of others, the report added.

Madayag Knazan worked with Great Plains Publications to come up with the young-adult novel that talked about food and her sons’ experiences growing up with blended heritage. Her sons are half Ashkenazi Jew and half Filipino.

“As she learns about her culture and she learns about her food, she tries to mash that together and create fusion dishes,” Madayag Knazan says of the main character in a report by Winnipeg Free Press.

She had long wanted to write a novel and Lessons in Fusion gave her chance to see the world from her teenager’s perspective.

“I wanted to write something that he wanted to read. And he expressed that he wanted to see more of himself in stories,” she says. “I want to see more books and more stories that my son will be able to relate to — I shouldn’t be the only one writing this.”

Madayag Knazan also documents her culinary journeys on Instagram (@pegonaplate), where she features the city’s Filipino food scene and reviews food businesses and their products.

“We’re continually called the next best thing,” she also told the Winnipeg Free Press. “I think people are starting to look at Filipino food as more than just pancit, lumpia and adobo.”

As a food blogger, she sees fusion with other cuisines as a continuing major trend.

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