Identity is a relevant theme as many people, both young and old, are redefining what it means to ‘come from’ somewhere. Hart House Theatre’s 2016–2017 season is gearing up to kick off a production of Lebanese-Canadian playwright Wajdi Mouawad’s Tideline. It is directed by Ken Gass, a multi-award winning U of T Drama Professor and Artistic Director of the Canadian Rep Theatre.
In a recent interview with The Varsity, Gass described Tideline as a poetic and passionate journey for young people. It’s part of a tetralogy of plays written by Mouawad that deal with the aftermath of war.
Gass is careful to note that although the piece includes war in its context, it adopts an imaginative approach. Ultimately, it is not limited to themes of war. Rather, the play focuses on the ‘lost generation’ that came after war and is angry at their elders for destroying their youth and childhood.
Gass draws comparisons between the play and a typical Greek tragedy because of the sheer epic scale of the work. He admits the play’s broad theatrical talent and imagination is influenced by the genre.
In the play, the protagonist Wilfrid receives a phone call that his father has died. Although Wilfrid was never very close to his father, this event takes him on a journey of discovery through his past and his heritage and reveals the story of how his mother died.
The recent influx of refugees from the Middle East to Europe and North America has brought with it many questions of identity, which serves as inspiration for the play. Tideline seeks to address concepts like identity and belonging, but Gass explains that the play is an extraordinary journey in itself. Its resonance with current events is certainly important. The play explores the question: how do we defy the past generations and create our own worlds? How do you heal following certain events? Closure is a major theme, as well as feeling lost with one’s past and identity, especially as a second-generation North American.
Gass is also a major advocate for live theatre as a means of entertainment and self-exploration. He stresses that Tideline is a large canvas. It has a rich aesthetic and explores the place of young people in the world. Unlike movies with visually-crafted effects and camera angles, Gass highlights how the theatre creates a sense of immediacy, as the story unfolds right in front of the audience.
Gass is excited to work with Hart House Theatre for the first time in 20 years. He’s been focused on assembling the cast for the show, which Gass promises will be diverse. He hopes that Tideline will induce conversation, while remaining entertaining. He notes that while theatre should contain a message, it must be entertaining along the way.
Tideline will be running September 16–October 1 at Hart House Theatre.