The Theatre Wire Season officially started with Falling Awake, which played last weekend and took audiences on a journey through a dreamland, and VIVA, on now through Sunday.
Coming up later in the season is Satellites, a new play by Aaron Bushkowsky that centres around a theme that will be very familiar to lower mainland audiences; the housing crisis and foreign investors.
But it’s the characters that will make this dark comedy stand out. After all, housing is about the people who live in those homes. To better understand one of the characters in this story, Theatre Wire interviewed Sharon Crandall who plays Cherry — a woman from Beijing, China looking to buy a house in Vancouver.
Theatre Wire: What do you think this play is about and why?
Sharon: This play is about connections—misconnections, missed connections, crossed connections, internal connections, external connections, deep connections, shallow connections. It’s about loneliness, whether you’re alone or not. About needing connections. It’s about stereotypes and assumptions, reading a book by its cover. It’s about what we do as humans, being the centre of our own universes. It’s about how we are all satellites—beings—natural or artificial in differing degrees, who are “placed” on this earth with a purpose, and with the ability to affect others. Sometimes we hover and watch, sometimes we jump in and meddle; sometimes we continue on our path, sometimes we take the path less travelled.
TW: What things do you want your performance to prompt people to think about?
Sharon: I want people to get curious before jumping to conclusions; to think about the other side of things. Yes, there are foreign investors who are creating a housing crisis in Vancouver, but what are their stories? Yes, maybe some of them are driven by greed, but are they all? How can we point fingers at ALL the foreign investors when we don’t know their individual stories? Now replace “foreign investors” and “housing crisis” with anything else you jump to conclusions about. Is that homeless man really lazy and stupid?
TW: Why does Vancouver need this play now?
Sharon: I think the world needs this play right now. There is so much hurt in the world and there need to be more acceptance and vulnerability. We need to listen to each other’s stories and understand the big picture. And although there is relevance to Vancouver in particular because of the housing crisis, this play allows us to see a different side of things. The sides that maybe we never even thought were possible. I think when we start getting curious about things that are unknown to us, instead of jumping to conclusions, and gain more understanding about the world and the people around us; we will be a happier and more forgiving being.
TW: Why do you make theatre?
Sharon: Theatre is home. There is no high like it and there are no people like theatre people. As actors, we are expected to give mind, body and soul to do our work. We have to be open and shameless and vulnerable from day one so we can then build a world together—a world that, before us, is simply words on pages. Theatre allows us to tell a story about this world from beginning to end in one evening.
TW: Were there any moments in the play that you can personally relate to about Vancouver’s housing crisis?
Sharon: I used to be a residential realtor in the Vancouver West area. The number of empty houses in this city is appalling. I have friends who can’t even afford to rent houses!! And my husband and I can no longer live in Vancouver because we can’t afford it … we moved to the Tri Cities and battle traffic every time I go in for an audition (1.5 to 2 hours in traffic round trip for a 5 minute audition is sensible, right? Good thing we lease an electric car).
TW: What drew you to this play and this role?
Sharon: Aaron and Solo Collective are highly regarded in our community and initially, this was what drew me in. But when I read the play to prepare for the audition, I realize that Cherry is a woman who is just trying her best to provide for her son, but is misunderstood because of stereotype or false judgement. I find that it is easy for people to jump to conclusions about who another person might be upon first glance. This play shows us that everyone has a story, and just because someone else’s story is different than our own, it doesn’t mean that is it wrong or less important than our own story.
TW: How did you prepare to play your character?
Sharon: Still preparing. Reading the play lots. Watching real life people who might be characters in the play. Since I was in residential real estate before, I have an idea of how a realtor behaves and have to deal with. I also love music, so that side of Cherry resonated well with me. And I have children, so I know what it’s like to want nothing but the best for my sons. I hope to be able to have a taste of life as Cherry— literally walk a mile in her shoes—in the real world. I may go to open houses of multi million dollar houses.
TW: What is the writing like?
Sharon: I love the balance of humour and darkness in this play. It is so real-life like to have a bit of everything in the everyday. This is what each of us struggle with everyday. The argument between bad and good, between acceptable and unacceptable, between societal acceptance and self realization. There is so much that is “discussed” in this play, but it is all disguised by everyday language for everyone to hear and ponder upon. I think the audience will see themselves in, or relate to, at least one situation or character struggle that is shown in this play.
TW: Do you have a dream role that you want to act in?
Sharon: Christmas Eve in Avenue Q. And Bloody Mary in South Pacific. And Diana in Next to Normal … so a few, I guess.
TW: What are some of your most memorable past productions/roles?
Sharon: On stage, “Abuela Claudia” in In the Heights with The Arts Club is a definite highlight, as well as “Fruma Sarah” in Fiddler on the Roof with Gateway Theatre. On screen, “Irma” opposite Heather Locklear and Lochlan Munro for a movie called The Game of Love. The most fun I’ve had on set has to go to playing a Nurse in an upcoming movie called Eggplant Emoji. Yup. It’s exactly what you think it means.