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Q&A: Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava

Photo: Brooke Wedlock

Following a critically acclaimed, sold-out run in Toronto, and in the midst of tour stops in Dawson City, Whitehorse, and Edmonton, creator/performers Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava chat with us about Mouthpiece (read synopsis).

The two-time Dora Award-winning show (six nominations) makes its Ottawa premiere February 10–13 on the opening weekend of undercurrents. A talkback will follow their February 12 performance.

Have your mothers and grandmothers seen Mouthpiece?

Nostbakken & Sadava: Our mothers both came to Toronto to see Mouthpiece when it premiered, so the two of them actually saw it together. We had obviously warned them in advance about the content and told them it was not written about them, but I think it was very emotionally impactful on them both. Performing the show that night was nerve-racking, but in the end it has opened up conversations that we otherwise might never have had, and the show has evolved our relationships with our mothers in ways we couldn’t have anticipated.


We bought the bathtub on Kijiji from a woman named Elaine in Guelph, who couldn’t fit it into her bathroom. Elain was so lovely that we named the mother in the play after her. The tub’s name is Maax. We treat Maax like our baby. Cleaning it, protecting it, carrying it around, driving it new places in the back of our minivan… We have also spent a lot of time drinking wine and thinking very hard in that tub. We recently acquired a tub out west for our western tour dates. She is our newer baby, so we don’t know her as well. But we are trying not to play favourites.

I read somewhere that you didn’t actually set out to create Mouthpiece? How did Mouthpiece come to be?

In 2012 we started work on a project entitled ‘House on Fire’ that was inspired by the work of poets such as Anne Sexton, Amy Gerstler and Sharon Olds. It was intended to be an exploration of female relationships, of that specific bond women experience whch is at once intimate and violent. Simultaneously unbreakable and unbearable. But as we began to delve into the territory of women in relationship to each other it tore open the fabric of our assumptions about our relationships with ourselves.

Like perfectly placed dominoes, just a couple of days of random events and realizations bumped into each other and our discourse completely changed. We began to think of ourselves differently, about society differently and the conversation transformed into a bigger and messier set of questions. We had to re-evaluate everything we had developed up until that point and were compelled to create Mouthpiece because it felt urgent, pressing and necessary.

It is imperative for us to continue to perform this work now so that we can continue to have that conversation with a diverse group of audiences across Canada. What it is to be a woman, to be a feminist, to be a human being in a very different world that that of our mothers and our grandmothers, and potentially different from the Yukon to Halifax. It is about giving a voice to things that tend to stay un-said, and opening up the space for more truths to be told.


After doing our initial run in Toronto, the feedback we received from audiences was that Mouthpiece offers a narrative that exists but that is often not acknowledged. It exposes a voice that is often muted or left unheard. So playing it in the nations capital feels like a great opportunity to have the policy makers and critical thinkers in the room who can help shed light on one of the underrepresented parts of our population that needs to be given a greater platform, a louder voice in this country.

Reviews of Mouthpiece

“There were some harmonies made by both women that just left me in awe, but the general theme left me feeling somewhat uncomfortable being in the same room as such strong opinions.” Ontario Arts Review

“A deceptively simple revelation about a daughter’s relationship to french fries as it relates to her mother’s relationship to french fries is one of the most incisive comments about contemporary womanhood that I’ve ever heard.” —Kelly Bedard