Blog | Asking for it

Asking for it

By admin | October 18, 2017

by Colin Thomas

Ellie Moon’s new play Asking For It was inspired by the trials—for sexual assault and choking—of former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi. And its premiere is timely: running until October 21 at Toronto’s Crow’s Theatre, the script has debuted amid the Harvey Weinstein earthquake.

Playwright Ellie Moon appears in her new script, Asking For It, which explores the complexities of sexual consent.

Playwright Ellie Moon appears in her new script, Asking For It, which explores the complexities of sexual consent.

But, as Carlyl Maga points out in her review in the The Star, Asking For It is “less about dwelling over the cases in the news and more about coming to terms with our personal sexual desires and how we communicate them respectfully and without shame.”

If you think that sounds easy, think again. To create her play, Moon interviewed strangers, friends, and family members—and she was also interviewed. In his review in The Globe and Mail, J. Kelly Nestruck observes: “Moon seems most interested…in the conversations she had that veered into grey zones when it comes to consent—a taboo idea in and of itself. An interview with a woman who is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who finds the #IBelieveWomen feminism reductive is startling. ‘I just don’t know when protecting women ends and infantilizing women begins,’ she says.”

Rose Napoli’s new play Lo (or Dear Mr. Wells) grew out of her experience of sleeping with her high school English teacher when she was 15. In this preview article, in which she and Moon are interviewed, Napoli says, “I’m more interested in the complication of that than I am in a pedophile who’s a predator and a horrible human being and has no love and affection for the girl. I wanted the young woman to have a voice, but I wanted to embrace the truth of both sides.”

Neither woman downplays the importance of accountability. They are also interested in complexity.

Lo premieres on October 25 at Toronto’s Streetcar Crowsnest. Asking For It, which opened on October 6, is an In Association production, in association with Crow’s Theatre, Nightwood Theatre, and Necessary Angel Theatre Company. It’s sold out. Both productions are part of an initiative called The Consent Event,” a play series and symposium navigating the minefield of modern sexuality.”


The upside of breaking down

I’m not sure exactly why this article by British actor David Harewood brought tears to my eyes, but I suspect it’s a combination of his writing, which is elegant, and his resilience, which is comforting.

Caption: Actor David Harewood drew strength from his mental collapse. (Photo by Andy Hall for the Observer)

Actor David Harewood drew strength from his mental collapse. Photo by Andy Hall for the Observer

Mentally, Harewood started to come undone not long after he finished his training: “Outside drama school, in the world of acting, I was being forced to get to grips with the reality that I was no longer just another actor. I was a black actor. Perhaps I was profoundly naive, but at no point during my time studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art did the colour of my skin cross my mind.”

As Harewood was struggling to form a coherent identity, he found himself caught up in the debate about racial representation and criticized by other people of African descent. He suffered a mental collapse, but, with the support of his friends and family, he recovered and is enjoying an enviable career. He feels no shame. “Personally” he says, “I believe that episode has given me enormous strength.”


Under the voice

It’s fascinating—and heartening—to see the many ways in which theatre artists are challenging the cruelties of the Trump presidency.

Performers Andrés C. Tolero and Brigid Cleary revisit love lost to hate in Sotto Voce. (Photo by C. Stanley)

Performers Andrés C. Tolero and Brigid Cleary revisit love lost to hate in Sotto Voce. Photo by C. Stanley

Adam Immerwahr, who is the artistic director of Theatre J in Washington DC, programmed Sotto Voce in response to Trump’s initial travel ban on seven Muslim countries.

In 1939, the SS St. Louis, which was carrying over 900 Jewish refugees was denied entry by Cuba and the United States. The refugees were forced to return to Europe, where many died in concentration camps.

In Nilo Cruz’s script, a young, Jewish writer from Cuba attempts to make contact with a German-American woman whose lover was on the St. Louis. The Washington Post describes the play as “a pensive waltz with ghosts.”

Lest we forget, Canada also turned away the St. Louis.


The mask of night is on my face

Last February, to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, The Guardian asked leading actors to perform key monologues from Shakespeare’s plays.

In this video clip, Joanna Vanderham performs a portion of Juliet’s dialogue from the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet. The innocence she brings to it is translucent.

I’m offering it to you simply because it’s so beautiful.

Consider the skill required to embody this innocence.


Talent overload

Actors love working with director Roy Surette, and no doubt that’s partly what has allowed him to assemble such a jaw-dropping cast for Touchstone Theatre’s production of Happy Place, which opens tonight at the Firehall and runs until October 29. The powerhouse team consists of Diane Brown, Nicola Cavendish, Sereana Malani, Adele Noronha, Laara Sadiq, Colleen Wheeler, and Donna Yamamoto.

Try coming up with a better local cast than this. No, forget it. Don’t try. Because you can’t.

Try coming up with a better local cast than this. No, forget it. Don’t try. Because you can’t.

The script, which was written by Canadian Pamela Mala Sinha, is set in an in-patient care centre for women who have experienced trauma, and it explores the characters’ movement towards compassion and healing.

Reserve yourself a spot by buying your tickets here.

Honour, Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan, which is part of the Diwali Festival, is also opening tonight. Dipti Metha’s solo show is set in Mumbai’s red light district. It’s running at the Vancity Culture Lab until November 4. Click here for tickets.

And then there’s Cirgue du Soleil’s new show Kurious – A Cabinet of Curiosities, which opened last night in the Grand Chapiteau, the company’s tent, which they have pitched near Science World. Buy your tickets on this site.

To read my reviews of all three shows of these shows, subscribe to my newsletter. It’s easy, it’s free, it comes with all sorts of other goodies, and it slides into your inbox once a week.

Are we lucky to live in Vancouver? Yes. Yes, we are.



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