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!
OCT. 22 – NOV. 16, 2014
At FLASHPOINT, 916 G Street, NW, Washington DC 20001