Aenigma Theatre’s production of The How and the Why opens on November 13 and runs till the 17th. It tells the story of Zelda, an evolutionary biologist whose “Grandmother Hypothesis” is challenged by a promising student, Rachel. Theatre Wire sat down with producer and director Tanya Mathivanan to learn more about these characters and the show.
Theatre Wire: What inspired you to do this play?
Tanya Mathivanan: I was drawn to this piece because I found it startlingly relevant. Conversations surrounding women, as well as the science field, have dominated headlines in recent years, and have gotten worryingly controversial. I believe that the issues articulated in this play are often ignored or dismissed, and that it is extremely important to highlight them in a public sphere and medium.
This work is also emblematic of the female voice: it has an all female cast and director; it depicts two fully-rounded, complex female characters, and is also written by a female playwright. This is a rarity in an often male-dominated theatre scene, which allows us to discuss female bodies in the space openly and honestly. At its essence, it’s about two women talking about Feminism, science, career, love, and family.
Also, how often do you see women talking about menstruation on stage?
TW: Why does Vancouver need this play now?
TM: This play is sorely needed now particularly because of the socio-political climate in the United States, which has been honestly trickling over to Canada as well. With the attacks on scientists, as well as on the credibility (and capability) of women, it is incredibly important to have positive representation of women in various forms of media, talking about very relevant issues. It provides a safe sphere within which to discuss ideas as well as to highlight very real problems that we are now facing. It also acts as a microcosm of the realities that many women live.
TW: What can audiences expect from a performance?
TM: Audiences can expect to watch two complex, fleshed out, nuanced women characters who are not concerned with coming across as “likeable.” They’re brilliant, unapologetic, flawed, and yet still emotionally vulnerable. You can expect a beautiful blend of a cerebral, and visceral experience from the show. It’s also a lot of fun to watch the battle of the minds!
TW: What things do you want your performances to prompt people to think about?
TM: I want them to think about the sacrifices that working women are often forced to make. I hope that it prompts a conversation about the serious double-standards that women have to face, especially in traditionally male-dominated fields such as science. I also hope that people will think about why the topic of menstruation, which is so uncomfortable for so many people to discuss out loud.
TW: What are you most looking forward to about the performances?
TM: Honestly, I’m looking forward to the conversations after the show most of all. I will be very interested to see how the audience receives this play, and their initial reactions to the ideas and scenarios being presented in it.
TW: What has been most challenging as a director/producer?
TM: Trying to balance the tone of the play, as well as portraying a clear interpretation of the story and characters has been challenging. What I love most about the play is how complex and often contradictory these characters are. They are very true to real life.
The How and the Why runs November 13-17 at Studio 1398, located at 1398 Cartwright Street on Granville Island. Buy tickets now, or purchase tickets to this show and two more Theatre Wire Package shows and your tickets are automatically discounted! Check out all the shows that are part of the Theatre Wire Package here.