If We Were Birds is a modern take on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a play about breaking all of the natural rules of relationships. Concordia graduates Stefanie Buxton and Clare Schapiro play the parts of chorus women, The Pregnant One and The Dwindling One, who testify against the culture of war and the cycle of violence that relationships create.The Concordian caught up with the ’90s graduates during a preview of the play earlier this week.
The Concordian: This play deals with some pretty heavy material, like sexual violence, murder and rape. Is the aim to educate, to condemn or to raise awareness?
Schapiro: I think it’s about awareness. Because it is the myth about these three characters. And the chorus women are also talking about their experiences, which are more recent than 2,000 years ago. It shows that continuum [of violence]. It’s just a cycle, and we have to break it. This is the 21st century, why aren’t we breaking the cycle? … There’s this incredible scene where Tereus is raping Philomela [his sister in-law] and he explains: he feels it in his teeth, it’s in his blood. [The play is about] trying to understand where that whole mentality comes from. The power and the need to possess, to own, to bite, and to destroy.
When playing the parts of the chorus women, are you affected on a personal level?
Schapiro: I think it’s a piece, because of the physicality of it and because it is a little bit extraordinary, and because of the visuals and the way in which Erin Shields [playwright] has melded all of these different kinds of devices to tell this story, to move it forward. Because it’s a very old story but told in a very contemporary way; of course it affects me personally. It affects me as an artist, it affects me as a woman, it affects me as a mother, it affects me as a neighbour. It affects me in every way, shape and form. And that’s what’s important, because we want theatre to have an impact.
What about the light-hearted moments?
Buxton: There’s some really funny stuff in there. The characters, just in the way they are, are hilarious. Even if it is a tyrannical king. What he’s doing, the fact that he finds himself so funny with bad jokes,that in itself is so funny to watch and you’re in this world but you need a bit of that air to come in too. You can’t have it be just ‘bam bam bam’ all the time. It’s good writing.
Final thing to add?
Buxton: It’s not something inaccessible. Like say [a] classical text or some kind of sitcom kitchen-sink thing that you just don’t really connect with at all. It’s kind of like going to an awesome concert. Like a full-on show that’s just like, “YEEAAAAHH” for like an hour and 15 minutes, because it’s relentless and, yeah, we’re pretty hard-core, if I do say so myself.
The award winning play, If We Were Birds, will play at Centaur Theatre until Oct.19. Students can attend the pay-what-you-can matinees on Oct. 12, 13 and 19.