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By Eliza Anna Falk
The Ambassador Theater International Cultural Centre (ATICC) and its Founder and Artistic Director, Hanna Bondarewska, are not afraid of challenges and demanding repertoire. Providing a platform for expression of complex narratives, whilst working toward building bridges between di verse cultures and groups, lies at the core of ATICC’s mission. Showcasing plays from around the world is what the Ambassador Theater does best. This year the American audiences will have the opportunity to see ‘Rage’, a riveting play, written by a critically acclaimed Canadian playwright, Michele Riml.
In ‘Rage’, the winner of the 2005 Sydney Risk Prize and 2008 Jessie Richardson Award, two opposing worlds collide and shake us up with a loud bang! The drama’s intense plot and a shocking finale force us to reflect on the complexity of the human psyche and examine where we stand on the issue of violence. And if it is just for a brief moment, that we stop and think about our contribution to peace, the production is a success.
Riml’s pairing of two opposite philosophies and animating them by two equally incompatible characters, is what has attracted Joe Banno to the script. The award winning Director has always been drawn to naturalistic plays dealing with psychology of intricate relationships, and humans crossing lines between good and evil. ‘Rage’, just like his beloved Shakespearian dramas, puts a spotlight on a dysfunctional relationship and proves that real people are flawed, changeable and capable of anything.
In the play, a radical, suicidal student called Rage brings his father’s gun to school in preparation for a counselling session with Laura, one of his teachers. A philosophical discussion on peace and violence turns into a blood chilling duel after Rage asks Laura to do the impossible – or so we think. The odds are high for the Hitler’s sympathiser to harm a human being representing all he despises, yet how about the pacifist abandoning her ‘being peace’ attitude and turning violent?
Laura may be idealistic but is she weak? Why ruthless and uncompromising Rage goes through a moment of weakness? These are only some of the questions, the Director and Actors (Ariana Almajan and Marlowe Vilchez) had spent time discussing before and after moving rehearsals to the stage. Deconstructing the characters through analysis of their personalities, motivations and behaviours, was crucial in bringing them to life and allowing the Actors to acclimatize with and understand the personas they were going to inhabit. Not to mention decoding the play’s intention and message.
Michele Riml wants to tell us much more than the important obvious. We know that facts of life cannot be changed – good and evil go together like light and darkness, and peace and violence have always existed in tandem. We know that guns have been made accessible to youngsters with tragic consequences. It is also common knowledge that growing up is difficult; especially for those born with predisposition to depression and violent behaviour; and that schooling is unpopular with many students, making teachers potential targets of resentment and abuse.
It is rather uncommon for a pupil to harm a teacher, however, as the publicly available data demonstrates, student violence against educators has become a common occurrence across the American schools. Whilst preventative measures are being implemented, plays such as ‘Rage’ are crucial in exposing the issue to the public and emphasizing the gravity of the crisis. The graphic presence of the gun and the way it is used in the play in front of the live audience is part of Riml’s strategy and her attempt to show us the danger for what it really is – another life about to be lost.
The drama is a strong reminder to parents and firearms owners to play their part in trying to prevent school shootings by practicing good parenting and keeping weapons away from children and adolescents. The importance of parental and environmental contribution to the process of early and on-going prevention cannot be emphasised often enough. Although solution to the multilayered problem of youth violence requires action on numerous levels, experts generally agree that early intervention by families and around the environments that children live in are most effective.
Another truth ’Rage’ brings to mind is that holding a belief may be a passive position to be in until it is complicated by intrusion of experience with its power to trigger responses not necessarily matching the ideals. The play incites us to think about grey areas between theory and action and gives us a chance to reflect on ‘what if’ situations. Banno praises the play for opening up a very important debate on whether violence can be justified, especially in extreme circumstances, such as the current one with ISIS and their ‘to kill or be killed’ motto.
Pertinent questions around violence and complexity of human responses bring us to the issue of ‘Rage’s’ finale and audience’s expectations. The director is a fan of open endings and had been toying with the idea until the author disclosed that the approach had been already trialled and given ‘thumbs down’ by the audience. Thus, it is safe to announce that the approaching Ambassador Theater’s production will not only allow audiences to witness the drama unfolding, but also make them privy to its unexpected conclusion!
At FLASHPOINT, 916 G Street, NW, Washington DC 20001
Ambassador Theater cordially invites you to a VIP Opening of
By Michele Riml
“A riveting work by the Canadian author, Michele Riml, recipient of the JESSIE RICHARDSON AWARD 2008!"
Directed By Helen Hayes awarded director, Joe Banno
Produced by Hanna Bondarewska
Ariana Almajan as Laura Whalen
Marlowe Vilchez as Raymond Stitt
October 23, 2014 at 8 pm
Reception Hosted by
Canadian Sweets & Treats Catering & Event Planning
SEATING IS LIMITED, PLEASE RSVP!
We would love to see you!
School in crisis in Michele Riml’s ‘Rage’ (premiering on 23 October at Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint, produced by Ambassador Theatre, directed by Joe Banno)
In Michele Riml’s* Rage, winner of the 2005 Sydney Risk Prize and 2008 winner of Jessie Richardson Award, an after school counselling session unexpectedly turns into a blood chilling ‘duel’ between a disturbed, radical student and his New Age, pacifist guidance counsellor, Laura. Disillusioned with life and day to day existence Raymond, who prefers to be called Rage, decides to take extreme measures to voice his frustration and uses his father’s gun to help him in his quest. Well- red, articulate and intelligent, able to control his emotions and pre-calculate his moves, he shuns the option of random shooting and instead singles out the guidance counsellor to hear him out, respond to his arguments and determine his fate.
Threatened with school expulsion, disappointed with school politics and hypocrisy of both teachers and parents, the suicidal teenager usurps Laura’s attention to defend his behaviour and convictions, challenging the education system and the counsellor’s personal values in the process. The gun he produces and later hands over to his ‘prisoner’ becomes a devilish tool in a life and death struggle of two desperate opponents. Does a pacifist abandon her ‘being peace’ attitude she lives by, and turn violent? Does the Hitler’s sympathiser end up annihilating a human being representing all he despises and rejects? The play’s intense and compelling plot and a provocative dialog will keep you on the edge of your seat, forcing you to think deeply and examine your own values in relation to the issues of peace, happiness, violence and gun control.
For a pupil to harm a teacher is generally regarded as a rare and deeply disturbing phenomenon. However, as the available data demonstrates, student violence against educators has become a common occurrence across the American schools. “Teacher victimisation is a nation crisis” according to Dr. Dorothy Espelage of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who has presided over the American Psychology Association’s Task force on Classroom Violence Directed at Teachers. When interviewed by Tim Walker from the National Education Association in February 2013, Dr. Espelage confirmed that according to the 2011 study, 80 percent of teachers surveyed were victimised at school at least once in a current or prior school year. Such common occurrences give rise to potential ultra-violent behaviours, such as usage of weapons against teachers and fellow students, as illustrated by the tragic trail of school shootings in the US.
The growing and death bearing crisis calls for strong and effective measures to protect both students and teachers, especially when, as Tim Walker reports,” the issue is generally ignored, down played or at least underreported by media” and as such poses a growing threat to the safety of school staff and students. With about one –quarter of teachers experiencing physical attacks, the survey emphasises an urgent need for increased training and vigilance in monitoring violent behaviour against school personnel, a result begging for immediate implementation and on-going assessment. Since the 2011 study, the US President has put forward a proposal for a wide-ranging plan ‘Now is the time’, to aid in protecting schools and communities by reducing gun violence and increasing resources to schools.
Whilst preventative measures are being developed and introduced, plays such as Rage are crucial in exposing the issue to the public and emphasising the gravity of the crisis. Extreme danger calls for extreme action. Riml, fully aware of the urgency of the situation, takes a bold approach leaving subtlety out, which may be regarded as too intimidating by some, especially those preferring to be told about violence and not confronted with it. Not afraid of ‘rocking the boat’, instead of keeping the gun hidden from audience’s eyes Riml gives it a ‘life’ and a full exposure. The graphic presence of the weapon and the way it is used in the play in front of the live audience is part of Riml’s strategy and her attempt to break us out of our comfort zone and show us the danger for what it really is – another life about to be lost.
Ambassador Theatre’s production, directed by Helen Hayes awarded Joe Banno, featuring Ariana Almajan as Laura Whalen and Marlowe Vilchez as Raymond Stitt, aims to turn Riml’s vision into reality with force and conviction. The rehearsals are underway and already the characters and their opposing view points come to life with all the tension and escalating danger intended. The actors move the story forward with passion, fast becoming the characters they play, getting lost in the souls and minds of an aggressive student and a pacifist teacher fighting a battle none of them can really win.
*Michele Riml is a critically acclaimed playwright from Vancouver, British Columbia. Her plays have been widely produced across Canada. They include Miss Teen, Under the Influence, Poster Boys, RAGE, Souvenirs, On the Edge, The Amaryllis and Henry and Alice: Into the Wild, the sequel to Sexy Laundry which has been translated and produced in Poland, Germany, New Zealand, Iceland, Mexico and the USA. Her plays for young audiences include, RAGE (also translated into French), The Skinny Lie, The Invisible Girl and Tree Boy (also translated into German). Michele was nominated for the 2008 Siminovitch Prize. She is represented by Colin Rivers at Marquis Entertainment in Toronto, Canada.
Ambassador Theater Presents US Premiere of
Directed By Helen Hayes Awarded Director
October 22 – November 16, 2014
Mead Theatre Lab at FLASHPOINT
916 G Street, NW, Washington DC 20001 (Near Gallery Place Metro, Paid Garage Parking on 9th or 10th Street)
Preview Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014 Opening & Reception after the show
Press Opening: Sat., Oct. 25, 2014 8 PM
Shows: Wed – Sat at 8 PM; Sun at 2 PM
Tickets: $10 – $40
RAGE – In this tense, one-act, Canadian play, an unstable high-school student confronts a pacifistic guidence councelor in her claustrophobic office at the school. During their increasingly heated conversation a gun is produced, and their encounter becomes a battle of wills. Will “justifiable” violence or passive resistance win the day? Who will survive?
Michele Riml is a critically acclaimed playwright from Vancouver, Canada. Her plays include Under the Influence, Poster Boys, RAGE, Souvenirs, On the Edge, The Amaryllis, Henry and Alice: Into the Wild and the international hit Sexy Laundry, which has been produced in Canada, Poland, Germany, New Zealand, Iceland, Mexico and the USA. Originally produced by Green Thumb Theatre in Vancouver, RAGE was the winner of the 2005 Sydney Risk prize for Outstanding Original Play and has also been translated into French and German. Her plays for young audiences include The Skinny Lie, The Invisible Girl and Tree Boy. Michele was nominated for the 2008 Siminovitch Prize. She is represented by Colin Rivers at Marquis Entertainment in Toronto.