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Monday, February 21, 2011

The Upstage Interview: Yael Farber

It’s both humbling and comforting to know we’re as human as [the ancient Greeks] were, and no less no more.

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.

CKUT  Upstage Producer Estelle Rosen conducted an interview with Director Yael Farber. Below is an abridged version of the interview.

Yael Farber is a multiple award-winning Director and Playwright. Montreal audiences were fortunate enough to see her play, Molora, at Place des Arts last year. She was recently appointed Head of the National Theatre School Directing Program.

She will be directing Kadmos Damned Be The Hands That Did This Thing, her adaptation of The Theban Plays by Sophocles.

Farber was asked to elaborate on her opening comments in the NTS press release: "The Greek tragedies have a remarkable way of showing just how far we haven’t come in 4000 years – this is both distressing and comforting."

I wanted to go on an exploration with these students and create a new work in which we spoke about the contemporary world

Farber explained: 

I’m from South Africa; have been in Montreal  five years. 

When you come from a society that is overwrought in a social  context, the endeavor of looking for theatre that speaks to that community has to have a particular level of intensity and a capacity to speak about the world through the device of theatre.

With the Greek tragedies, there is an extraordinary availability that they offer themselves to an artist in which you can speak about the contemporary world through these ancient voices.  

Again and again I’m struck by how the same dilemmas face us, the same crises, the same questions existential and spiritual, that our forefathers & ancestors have been speaking of directly to us through Greek tragedies.

It’s both humbling and comforting to know we’re as human as they were, and no less no more.

The Theban plays tell the story of the mythical King Oedipus of Thebes and his descendants. Using primarily Antigone and Oedipus The King, Kadmos tells the story of the daughter of Oedipus who defies an order that her deceased brother is to be denied sacred burial rites. She discovers her brother’s body has been tortured and likely murdered. Antigone refuses to be silent about this attempted coverup.

The Antigone play is a famous play for its dialogue between Kreon and Antigone who he considers just a girl. What is the law of man and what is the law of god, what laws are held sacred, and what rests with governing body.

I felt it could be a very powerful way to talk about the concepts of freedom and democracy which seem to have a spiritual quality of righteousness that are protected by powerful nations like America, who consider themselves aligned with notions of democracy and humanity, yet in times of exreme stress they have foregone the basic founding principles - like use of torture - for example Abu Ghraib. At what point do you discard the founding principles that the society roots themselves in spiritually in order to protect that dream.

Just working with all those levels of irony, I wanted to go on an exploration with these students and create a new work in which we spoke about the contemporary world and sacrificing those ideals in order to protect this dream.

Kadmos Damned Be The Hands That Did This Thing
Feb. 22-25


  1. My mother always said that if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.


  2. I really dig this idea of posting abridged Upstage interviews's nice to be able to catch up on interviews I've missed.

  3. Anonymous - Wise as those words might be, fail to see connection with this interview.

    Tamara - Glad it's helpful.


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