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Janna is a staff writer for The Hudsucker. Born and raised in a small Ontario town, she made her move to Toronto for university and immediately fell in love with the excitement and pace of the big city. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production from York University, specializing in editing and screenwriting. She currently works as an assistant editor for a television production company. Janna loves stories told in all mediums, especially film, and takes herself to the movies as much as she possibly can. She can generally be found taking a Zumba class, exploring some of Toronto’s lesser-known gems, or relaxing with her fluffy feline roommate.

Kristian Bruun & Hannah Cheesman: Passionate about Periods

mnp-questionperiod-december2014-finalIn recent years, previously-taboo topics like gender, sexuality, and sexual health have become more mainstream. People are becoming more educated about STDs, awareness campaigns are working to remove the stigma against the LGBTQ+ community, and more and more women and men are self-identifying as feminists. People are learning and having discourses that, not too long ago, would have only been found in small niche groups or in a classroom. But there’s another topic that falls under this broad umbrella of gender, health, and human sexuality, and it’s one we haven’t quite demystified yet:

Periods.

Periods aren’t the talk of the town. Aside from small groups of women and middle-grade health classes, they’re barely discussed at all. For many, periods are seen as gross, irritating, and a necessary evil that arrives with a girl’s trip through puberty. There are still a lot of myths out there surrounding periods—trust me, I’ve heard my fair share. I was once a fifth-grade girl, after all. And forget about trying to get most men to even listen to someone talk about periods without grimacing, making a comment, or simply removing themselves from the conversation. For a lot of people out there, men and women alike, periods are an uncomfortable and negative topic.

Mother Nature Partnership is trying to change that.

Mother Nature Partnership, a charity based out of Toronto, is the leader in menstrual health programming. They empower women and girls to live their lives to the fullest by connecting individuals with access to healthy and informed menstrual health care. They believe in educating and equipping women and girls with the knowledge and tools for healthy menstrual care, while empowering them to make a positive difference to the environment in which they and their families live. Mother Nature Partnership has chosen to focus much of their work within the African country of Cameroon, where attitudes around menstruation and menstrual care are particularly damaging. Traditional customs attach taboos to the female period and it can be considered a curse if anybody knows that a woman is menstruating. With a lack of awareness and supplies, women are forced to spend one week every month—practically a quarter of their lives—at home, missing out on school, work, and other activities. Mother Nature Partnership works with Cameroonian women and teenage girls to educate them about their bodies and to provide them with environmentally-friendly products to help them continue to live their lives while menstruating. Not only does their work affect the women of Cameroon, they contribute to awareness and education close to home, too. The world sure may not be talking about periods, but Mother Nature Partnership wants us to start.

On Tuesday, December 2nd, Mother Nature Partnership is hosting their second annual Question Period, a trivia night held at the Drake Hotel in Toronto, Canada. With a range of general knowledge and period-related questions, teams of four will compete against each other during three rounds of 10 trivia questions. All proceeds from Question Period will help provide 1,000 girls in Cameroon with menstrual health supplies and information. Plus, there are prizes to be won! The night is a big event, and everyone wants in on the fun—including Orphan Black’s Kristian Bruun and The Animal Project’s Hannah Cheesman. They’re returning as the hosts for Question Period, for the second year in a row, and I sat down with both of them to talk about the big night, their respective projects, and—of course—periods.

Credit Mother Nature Partnership

Credit Mother Nature Partnership

The Hudsucker: How did you both get involved with Mother Nature Partnership?

Hannah Cheesman: Well, Kristian and I are both actors—Kristian’s a writer as well, and I’m also a writer and producer. We know each other through our agents at Amanda Rosenthal Talent, and last year Kristian’s agent Meagan reached out to both of us. She explained Question Period to us and told us that they were looking for some hosts, and Kristian and I both were like, “Obviously, this is something we can get behind!”. It seemed like a great cause, but it also seemed like a lot of fun. Plus it gives me an opportunity to tease Kristian for an entire evening. It seemed like something I couldn’t turn down.

Kristian Bruun: Which I can’t stand. I hate being teased.

The Hudsucker: You’re going to have a terrible time, then!

HC: We’re not looking forward to it at all. [laughs]

KB: No, really, it’s a fun night. It’s a hell of a lot of fun to host a trivia night. Especially with someone as funny as Hannah. Last year we just improvised and went with the flow, and we had some good witty repartee between the two of us. And besides that, I think it’s a really cool charity. It’s one that more men should be involved with, and you see that reflected in the night of Question Period. There are just as many guys as girls on the teams, and they come up with these awesome team names, and everyone’s sitting there gabbing about periods! That’s part of the point of the whole charity—to get people talking about periods. To stop making it so much of an issue and to laugh about it. To have fun with it and to make periods just a normal piece of conversation.

Credit David Leyes

The Hudsucker: What was last year’s Question Period like?

HC: It was a blast. Everybody—and I mean everybody—got really competitive, which is great. It didn’t feel like it was a fundraiser. Normally if somebody invites you to a fundraiser, you know, you do it with a sense of obligation and duty, but everyone I spoke to really genuinely enjoyed themselves. And the prizes are generally pretty fabulous as well. I like to frame it less like a fundraiser, even though that’s important and we want to highlight that, and more as a really great quiz night. Which is something people go out and do anyway, so why not do it for a great cause?

KB: Last year, I was like, “We should host more quiz nights!” [laughs] It’s so much fun. And we haven’t, so that’s why we’re coming back. We haven’t started our own quiz night. Not yet, anyway.

The Hudsucker: What kind of trivia questions do you guys usually cover?

KB: There were some that were period-related last year. It was kind of all over the place. There would be rounds that would certainly have that pertinent period information. PPI, as you will. And then there were some that were just fun and ridiculous. They didn’t want to make a whole night just about periods—an hour and a half is a lot of period trivia. So they mixed it up and had some fun with it as well. So the best thing for people to do is to make a well-rounded team and come up with a really ridiculous name that has something to do with periods. Get people with different skillsets and go from there.

HC: Yeah, because there are questions that are political, geographical, all about pop culture. It really does run the gambit, like Trivial Pursuit.

The Hudsucker: What if somebody wanted to start a team, or to come down by themselves and participate? How does that all work?

KB: You can sign up in advance on their website, or you can show up early and register your team to get them in there.

HC: And I don’t think people are too precious about their teams. It’s easy to join a team if you’re there totally solo. It’s pretty easy to find some friends.

KB: Yeah, some teams might have an extra spot. It’s a good way to meet people, too. It gets people talking around the table.

HC: Last year we had eight to ten teams, and we sold out. Some people had eight people on a team, or something. It was a full house! That’s the thing—if people want to come, it’s a good idea to sign up in advance so you don’t miss out.

Credit David Spowart

Credit David Spowart

The Hudsucker: Do you work on other projects with Mother Nature Partnership, or has it just been Question Period?

KB: So far, just the Question Period stuff. I would love to do more, to be honest—I’m always looking for local charities to work with. It’s one of those things I like to do because the job that Hannah and I have, sometimes, feels like the most selfish job in the world. For me, I feel like everything I do in my day to day job is for myself. So charity is a great opportunity to do something for someone else. The thing that’s cool about Mother Nature Partnership is that their work changes the local perspective, and they also do work in Cameroon, so it’s a great mix of local and international. I dig that. I work with a few other charities, but I’d love to do more work with them. I should talk to them about that.

HC: Yeah, I’d be down to work more with them too. I particularly like that their work has a female angle, and I’d say it’s feminist without being too radical or browbeating. I’d be happy to host more trivia nights for them.

KB: Yeah, more trivia nights!

HC: Or anything! The people who run the charity are really great, too. It always feels really good to be around these people. It feels inclusive and normalizing and positive, you know?

The Hudsucker: Aside from hosting entertaining trivia nights and making people laugh, you both have some pretty big projects going on. What are you working on right now, Hannah?

HC: A few good things are happening right now! I wrote and created a web series with Julian DeZotti through funding from IPF and the OMDC, called Whatever, Linda. It’s executive produced by Secret Location and we released the first episode on Monday, November 17th. We had a big spread on the cover of the Globe and Mail’s Arts section, too. I also have a year-long series for the Globe and Mail with my business and creative partner, Mackenzie Donaldson—we’re contributing writers. And we’re going to camera with our first feature, called The Definites, coming up in December.

The Hudsucker: What is The Definites about?

HC: This is the log line: “A woman leaves her husband-to-be and instead weds her own wild desire when she goes to Art Basel in Miami for a party-filled, libidinous weekend.”

The Hudsucker: Oh, that sounds scandalous.

HC: Yeah, it’s scandalous, exactly!

KB: Sounds like my Friday night.

Credit Mother Nature Partnership

Credit Mother Nature Partnership

The Hudsucker: Kristian, what about you? Orphan Black is currently filming its third season, correct?

KB: Yeah, we’re deep into it right now. The role of Donnie was originally only supposed to be for three to six episodes. They weren’t really sure how much he would play into the story. So just to see where he’s gone from the first season until now has been an actor’s dream. It’s been the most fun stuff I’ve ever shot. And season three is going to be exciting. Every season picks up where the last one left off, and this one starts off sprinting. It’s pretty incredible. What do you think, boss?

HC: I can speak to that, too. I’m story coordinating on Orphan Black this year. I think this season is going well—you guys are doing great. The dailies look good, the acting’s good, the stories are great. It’s going to be an exciting season, I think.

KB: The world expands in each season. The first season is all about, “Okay, what the hell is going on?” And for the second season, the world gets opened up a lot, and you think, “Ooh, I think I know what’s going on.” And then at the end of the season, things get blown really wide and it all just explodes. At the beginning of season three, they totally run with it. It’s going to be exciting as hell.

The Hudsucker: As exciting as Question Period?

KB: Nothing is as exciting as Question Period!

The Hudsucker: Why should someone come down and participate on December 2nd?

HC: It’ll be the most fun night you’ll ever have celebrating menstruation, that’s for sure. And you’ll also be supporting Cameroonian women and teenage girls’ chances of being able to have a quarter of their life freed up for work and school and community involvement. They lose out on that on the regular.

KB: We want to put the “fun” back in “womenstruation”!

The Hudsucker: I’m going to quote you on that.

KB: You’d better.

For more about Mother Nature Partnership’s work, both locally and in Cameroon, visit their website or Like them on Facebook. You can also register a team for Question Period here.

Question Period takes place on Tuesday, December 2nd at the Drake Underground Hotel in Toronto (1150 Queen St. W.). Doors are at 7pm and trivia begins at 8pm. There are still spots available for teams to sign up!

You can keep up with Kristian Bruun and Hannah Cheesman’s work by following them on Twitter.

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