The stories seem so far removed from them but once they take on the challenge of telling the stories of these people they begin to understand universality.
The Upstage Interview, each Monday, is a result of CharPo's media partnership with Upstage: Theatre on Radio on CKUT.
Upstage and CharPo contributor Sarah Deshaies spoke with Director Vernice Miller about Concordia presentation of Scorched, the English version of Incendies by Wajdi Mouad. Below is an abridged version of the interview transcribed by Estelle Rosen, CharPo Editor-in-Chief.
Miller was asked about the story of Scorched.
On the death of their mother, twin immigrants learn how much they don’t know about their past. Their mother left behind two letters; one to a father they didn’t know they had; another to a brother they didn’t know about. This takes them to the land of her birth which is a foreign country to them. There they uncover their own story.
As to what prompted Miller to get involved in this project, Miller replied.
The Artistic Director of Concordia Theatre Department proposed I take a look at this play when we were discussing my being on staff this semester as Guest Director. As soon as I read the play, I knew I had to do it.
The wonderful thing about Scorched is that it feels like an old Greek myth. I daresay the playwright borrowed from the Greek mythology of Oedipus. It reads like Oedipus but it’s our modern day mythology, our modern day epic. And the story that these twins go back to the Middle East with so much of our focus these days on the Middle East, it seemed very timely.
As performers, we can’t play with generalities; it has to be set in a specific place. In order to bring it to life we had to know where we were.
Deshaies asked about the challenge of it not being set in a specific country.
We went with the playwright’s story; back to Lebanon using Lebanese civil war as point of departure. As performers, we can’t play with generalities; it has to be set in a specific place. In order to bring it to life we had to know where we were.
Miller was asked whether the cast has been following current turmoil as a way to get into setting.
It's hard not to be following events; it’s the story of our time right now. They’re drawing from the knocking down of dictators and the birth of this new era of democracy – what’s it going to look like; how is it going to be different from democracy we know here. It’s a very exciting time to be engrossed in this play in this historical moment.
Pain is pain whether in Lebanon or Canada. What connects us as human beings is the same.
Deshaies asked whether the current turmoil draws extra buzz
Hard to tell because we’re so immersed in rehearsals. I’ve never seen Scorched or Incendies so have no idea how they compare. I hope the buzz will prove positive and bring many people to the theatre.
The students are doing tremendous work. It’s a very intense story and are opening themselves up in a really deep way. I have actually seen them age in the time I’ve been there. Could see evidence of that in a recent photo shoot. Some cast members aged in terms of physically embodying characters. The stories seem so far removed from them but once they take on the challenge of telling the stories of these people they begin to understand universality. Pain is pain whether in Lebanon or Canada. What connects us as human beings is the same. They’re tapping into emotions and a new reality of themselves in the world in a completely different way that has opened their eyes and that has aged them in a beautiful way.
Asked whether actors have seen the movie or other stagings of this play, Miller responded:
Of our 18 cast members, a few of them have seen other versions of the play. I have asked them not to share that info with other cast members. I think it’s best each person approach new material in such a way as to learn for themselves what’s there.
Apr. 14 - 17