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Monday, March 7, 2011

The Upstage Interview: Stacey Christodoulou

The Upstage Interview is a weekly feature at CharPo and is a result of The Charlebois Post's partnership with Upstage: Theatre on Radio on CKUT.

Upstage and CharPo contributor Sarah Deshaies spoke with Director Stacey Christodoulou about The Other Theatre’s presentation of Réhabilitation by Greg MacArthur. Below is an abridged version of the interview transcribed by Estelle Rosen, CharPo Editor-in-Chief.

Réhabilitation takes place at a recovery centre in Antarctica where a unique treatment bringing peace, tranquility and forgetfulness is used on those deemed to be in the grip of an addiction that must be cured before it reaches catastrophic consequences. Greg MacArthur’s play warns against the suppression of individuality in the face of conformity, consumerism, and the pursuit of comfort at any cost.
it is a sci fi work in a way,  about people who are convinced they are addicted to something because the government says they are

Asked about general response so far, Christodoulou responded how gratifying it’s been considering its intensity.

This is a tragic play that talks about how people react to a situation becoming more and more authoritarian. Three residents in a place supposedly to get treatment; the treatment centre becomes a type of prison. How each of them reacts to their environment and its  consequences form the essence of this play.

Set in not too distant future;  it is a sci fi work in a way,  about people who are convinced they are addicted to something because the government says they are.  They voluntarily agree to go into treatment and give up their rights  so they can be healthy, feel safe and secure in this environment isolated from the rest of the world. With more and more people being rounded up, their healthy spa-like enviroment becomes this Gulag.

The question was put to Christodoulou whether the topic of rehab being so present in pop culture, played in any way into the story,

I think so. When Greg MacArthur wrote the play he had the idea that in Western culture we’re very much into pacifying ourselves. Rather than coming together as a group, fighting social injustice in the world, doing an anlysis of why certain injustices exist and how we can address them, the theme these past 10 years has been -  if you have a problem - take a pill.

As a culture we have a real memory problem, everything is so readily available to us, we don’t have to remember facts, we can Google them.

I think he was reacting to how we’re so eager to accept self blame, to accept someone else’s version of the truth, to the extent that what happens in this rehab treatment centre causes people to lose their memory; they forget where they live, for example. As a culture we have a real memory problem, everything is so readily available to us, we don’t have to remember facts, we can Google them. This changes how we process and retain information, as well as the ability to see how information is affecting us. We can feel tragic about the revolution happening in Libya but then we’re talking about Charlie Sheen two minutes later completely obliterating it from our psyche. This endless stream of pacifying information contributes to our inability to care as people.

...we use technology to isolate ourselves.

Many people have the impression they’re closer to people because they have 500 friends on Facebook. In fact, we’re more isolated than ever. Speaking as someone who has traversed the technological landscape from typewriters to iPads, your thinking does change. Your relationship to language, to literature, to assembly alters. The more we lose human contact, the more susceptible we are to manipulation.

The play doesn’t specifically address revolution but does address how people react. It isn’t an isolated environment, the only way it can function is if it’s isolated from the outside world. It’s interesting how we use technology here as opposed to how it’s being used in other countries. They use it to come together, we use technology to isolate ourselves.

Asked if she felt pushed to stage the show following events in 2010 that shook the world – like the oil spill, Wikileaks for example.

Yes, absolutely.  I knew the time was right. I think the most important thing about the play is that despite not addressing any specific political issue, it is addressing our ability to forget.  The memory that we think is so permanent is actually quite malleable and it doesn’t take a lot to play with that. Our ability to remember and the quality of our memories affects who we are as people. Sounds self evident but I find just being on the internet these last few years has changed how I relate to myslf,  to my art,  to my friends, and I don’t necessarily like it. There’s this intense pressure to keep going or you’re going to be out of the loop. I tend to think about things like this but what if we just accept it; what does that mean. 

This is what the play is saying - all people need is mindless entertainment. When people feel good, they’re more easily manipulated.

To Mar. 10

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