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Let me ask my other self

by The Concordian November 22, 2011
Let me ask my other self
“She’s the classic, western, depressed woman,” said Imago artistic director Clare Schapiro of the title character in the upcoming play ANA. The play has been in development for six years as a collaborative effort between Montreal’s Imago Theatre and Edinburgh’s Stellar Quines Theatre Company.
Ana is a woman born 5,000 years ago who can split herself in two whenever life presents her with a difficult decision.
“It’s a metaphor for what women go through,” said Schapiro. She gives the example of one such decision when Ana chooses whether or not to have an abortion. “The killing of the baby is not necessarily the killing of the baby,” Schapiro said. “It’s killing your dreams.”
When Schapiro met Stellar Quines artistic director Muriel Romanes, they discussed how women end up feeling splintered throughout their lives. They fleshed out the idea with the story of an ancient goddess who had the ability to become two people when a tough decision presented itself.
“[Ana] basically gives away everything in order to understand and rise above,” said Schapiro. “That was the inspiration […] not just the increased statistics in women with depression, but that kind of malaise, that daily weight of ‘what is the point of going on.’”
The play is being performed by Quebecois and Scottish actors in both French and English. There will be subtitles so that everyone understands the complete show here and during its performances in Scotland.
Artists working on the project said they were struck by the similarities between their two homelands.
“Even the language, joual and Highland Scottish, are very similar,” said Shapiro. “[…including] obviously politically, the quest for identity is out there. The guarding of the language and culture is prominent [in both places].”
So it would then make sense that a collaboration should happen between these two geographically distant, yet idiosyncratically similar societies. But while Scotland works to further its culture and identity through a vibrant arts community, the reality here is quite different.
“The finance minister has already announced that arts organizations should start looking for other funding, because they won’t be doing it anymore,” said Schapiro. “In the history of theatre you see how important it’s been socially, politically, and intellectually. But we all forget that. […] The arts have always been considered a luxury, a fringe – and that’s so untrue.”
Schapiro admits that there is a lot of bad theatre in the city and the aftershocks of that lowers attendance for all companies. In such an environment, relying solely on the box office for support becomes even more unrealistic. But she says that when companies challenge themselves and welcome collaboration “it raises the bar. […] Theatre needs to be more global.”
While Quebec theatre struggles, Scotland has the flip-side. Arts are such an integral part of the society that theatre houses will have their own restaurants or pubs where “even people who aren’t seeing the play are meeting with the actors. It’s a whole different culture,” Schapiro said.
Considering the striking similarities found in both Scottish and Quebecois society, along with the dichotomy between how theatre is treated in each, it seems oddly fitting that this transatlantic collaboration should be ANA, the story of one woman split into very different realities.ANA runs at Espace Go (4890 St-Laurent) Nov. 22 – Dec. 10. Tickets are $23 for attendees under 30. For more info: imagotheatre.ca/ana.

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